Why TV news in Hawaii stinks

13 Jul

We criticise the news, a lot.
Here’s two samples.

This time, we explain how it got to where it is.

Years ago, TV news was a way that broadcasters “paid” for free use of the airwaves.

The FCC required a certain percentage of public service so news and public service announcements were used to meet the quota.

The news department (radio or TV) was never seen as a profit center – it was meeting your public obligation.

That, of course, has changed and with it so has the fight for ratings become the new battle ground.

As a newscast became the face of the station and people trusted the information (think Bob Sevey from years ago on KGMB), news departments started making money.

With the exception of hits such as “American Idol”, the cost for a TV commercial is usually highest within and next to a newscast.

As any good bean counter will tell you, the best way to maximize profit is to cut costs and over the years TV news slowly rid itself of its best reporters in exchange for new ones right out of school.

Where they used to pay $60,000 a year for an experienced journalist, they now pay $19,000 for an inexperienced one.

As the so-called 24-hour news cycle took off with the Internet TV and newspapers found themselves reporting on stories that were old news and ones people already knew about from reading them on the net.

Something had to change.

Flawed focus groups and surveys determined since people already knew about the important stuff, they really wanted what they couldn’t find on Drudge Report or Yahoo News.

All that was left was traffic accidents, crime and fluff.

People are always fascinated by the problems of others – that’s why all of us rubber neck on the freeway while passing a bad accident.

One of the oldest rules in news is, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

What has been lost in this change is an informed public.

A good journalist will agree that issues of importance need to be explained to people.
The pros and cons and how something will impact you.

Newspapers excelled at giving the space necessary to explain, examine and analyze.

But the general public apparently doesn’t want all that. It’s too much detail.

So TV News gives people what they seem to want: short stories, “important stuff” in the first 7 minutes followed with “interesting stuff” in the next 5 minutes, some weather and sports and sign off.

Unfortunately, the “important stuff” is squeezed into 60 second stories and done by an inexperienced reporter who doesn’t have the time or background to understand it in the first place.

The story is then presented as a quick interview by the opposing parties.
That’s not news, that’s a soapbox.

Is that wrong?
We think so.

But the economics of the matter are stations trying to do all “hard news” are not being watched.

No viewers equals poor ratings equals going broke.

News directors are hired to produce a good news program and bring in high ratings, and profit.

Today, you can’t have all three.

Let’s look at our favorite target, Hawaii News Now – KGMB, KHNL, KFVE.

They are doing very well in the ratings, but in our opinion what happens on set is an irritating giggle fest as the anchors act like the cast of “Friends” out having a beer.

We can only suspect the idea is to be like a group of people all sitting around together (you too, from your home) just chatting and talking about the day’s events.

It apparently works as they are doing well.

Yes, we’re old-fashioned and terribly out of date.

We suspect this is aimed at the short attention span FaceBook generation, but we long for someone to tell us what’s going on locally and help us understand why it’s important to know it.

We have our own circle of friends to drink with, thank you.

TV news can do what we can’t, attend a press conference, interview the decision makers that affect our lives, present the different sides of the story by journalists that have been around long enough to understand and effectively bring it to you.

That is its strength.
Or used to be and once in a while still is.

Why did it change?
Because we did.

2 Responses to “Why TV news in Hawaii stinks”

  1. Anonymous July 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    Did the FCC give up on investigating the complaint about this blatant abuse of the ‘public’ airwaves, i.e. the consolidation of the 3 stations? Haven’t heard much about follow-up.

    • Honolulu Notes July 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

      Last November the FCC dropped the case. Pointing to multiple precedents, it said it would not intervene “since Raycom did not acquire control of a new license in the deal–it only acquired the programming and operations of the KGMB.”

      Honolulu Notes

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