Saturday, March 04, 2006

Go, Aaron!

About six months ago, I mentioned in this very blog how I respected former CNN anchor Aaron Brown. This story is perfect validation. From

Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown has suggested that television viewers are responsible for the deterioration of broadcast news as much as the TV networks themselves. "In the perfect democracy that I believe TV news is, it's not enough to say you want serious news, you have to watch it," he told an audience in Medford, OR this week. As reported by the Medford Mail Tribune, Brown, speaking to a First Amendment forum, noted that while CNN was spending a fortune covering the 2004 tsunami, Fox News was channeling its resources into the missing teenager Natalee Holloway. The contest, he noted, was won hands down by Fox. The result, he suggested, was not lost on his former employer, CNN. "The news in this country is a business," he said. "You might not like to think of it that way, but it is." He suggested that television, instead of being diverted by scores of late-breaking trivial stories, ought to focus on the 6-10 "really important stories" that occur each day.


paladin said...

While I agree with you and AB that national news could do a better job of informing the public, I think he (and you) are barking up the wrong plasma screen.I have problems with AB's rant, including his assertion that TV news is the "perfect democracy". Spare me, please.I'm also skeptical of his "blame the victim" attitude that the public is causing the downfall of TV news.And what to say about "news in this country is business". Well, no duh! Who else is gonna pay for it? We already have state-sponsored news in the guise of PBS and NPR---is all news supposed to be taxpayer financed? Financed by George Soros along with Murdoch? What? Who?Finally, AB's statement that TV news needs to focus on "6-10 really important stories" begs the question---who decides what the 6-10 "really important" stories are? Is what is important to a bunch of East Coast liberal elites, really important to those of us in the Midwest? Who decides? Who the hell is AB to choose for the whole nation? I'm sure he thinks he's up to the task.And one more thing needs to be mentioned---TV news is not the best venue for "really important stories". TV is good a venue for visual (duh) emotional stories like the first days of Katrina, tsunami, shock and awe, 9/11, Challenger, etc. After that, when there are no visual images to titilate, TV news become useless as a medium for real information.

-shane- said...


While I agree with some of your points, I still think that Aaron's right that a lot of the responsibility lies with the public.

You say that unless there are titillating visuals to accompany it, TV news is a useless medium. While that may be true, the fact is that a GOODLY percentage of our population ONLY gets their news from TV. Newspapers or online can have as much "real information" as possible, it doesn't matter if no one reads it. This is definitely the digital age; most people in the coveted 18-34 demographic get their news primarily from "The Daily Show" or other comedy-skewed sources.

Look at my workplace, for instance. And by this, I'm talking about the SALES floor at the newspaper, coz that's my 9-5, not the news dept. My coworkers in sales are ALWAYS talking about the news... but what comes up around the watercooler? Iraq? Nope. Politics? Nope. But I've sat and listened to my coworkers talk about Natalee Holloway for hours on end. Baretta's murder trial for hours on end. Hell, work all but STOPPED during the Scott Peterson trial/verdict.

Like it or not, that's the kind of fluff that MOST people get worked up about... leaving only a seeming minority to discuss stuff that you or I might consider important.

I'm a HUGE proponent of visual media - it's in fact what I did my college thesis on. I'm a McLuhanist through and through. But as long as society wants to concern itself only with stories that might be SHOCKING or SCANDALOUS, then TV news WILL always be a huge fluff piece and little else.

paladin said...

OK, we mostly agree here, but I'll never be convinced that TV is an appropriate medium for all "important stories". Katrina is a prime (and recent) example. When there were images of destruction and human suffering, TV News was at it's best. Now that NO (why is there never much coverage of MS, which got hit harder than NO?) is in the rebuilding phase, there is not so much reporting from there because there are fewer (or none) compelling pictures. Same for Iraq; as long as there are pictures of something (or someone) being blown up, with pictures provided by the terrorist group doing the blowing up, the death and carnage in Iraq remains the primary story about a very complex event. And yes, I know that the majority of the country obtains news from TV. As for your co-workers avoiding the hot topics of Iraq, Social Security, politics, etc., I'd say from my own experience in the workplace, that there are usually enough tensions, intrigue and drama without adding polarizing politics into the mix. After all, we have to see these people at least five days a week----who needs more hostility than already exists?(BTW, I read your column and really enjoy it. That fact that you haven't been booted out of your office after your cheeky columns about the women, proves you must have some level of charm---or guile!) However, no amount of charm will ever convince me that TV is a good venue for serious and complex news stories---although I understand why AB (and you) think it is.