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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

This Just In

by Neena Louise

I have to wonder just how much credibility television news has these days. I receive seven (SEVEN!!) cable news channels and, at times, they run the same story. Over and over and over again. All day long. When the Egypt Air jet crashed, there was little else to be found on the news bandwidth, even though there was nothing new to report. Reporters and anchors struggled to come up with something to say, speculating on what might have happened, should have happened, may happen later....blah, blah, BLAH! Meanwhile, I'm flipping around and around trying to find something else to watch. It was the same situation when John Kennedy Jr.'s plane crashed. And the Columbine shooting. And the Oklahoma City bombing. Yes, they were all big news and should have been reported. But not beaten to death.

In the "good old days" (not so very long ago), "newsflashes" were just that: flashes. A few seconds stolen from a show to inform the public of an important breaking event. Film at 11:00. Now, entire shows are swallowed to ramble on (and on) about nothing. Film right now. And now. And again. Then once more. By the time 11:00 p.m. rolls around for the "real" news, we are bored with the whole thing and wish they'd shut up and report on actual news (the key word being NEW).

"News updates" are even worse. Several times a night - whether anything remotely interesting is happening or not - we get a mini-newscast, complete with commercials! With seven news channels, I DON'T NEED THIS! Especially when the "update" is the equivalent of "Mrs. Bossie's cow got run over tonight." "Bulletins" are even more annoying. Why break into a show only to tell me you're going to break into a show later? I'll never forget how enraged I was when, at 10:52 p.m., a local network affiliate (that isn't even in my area) broke into ER to report on a guilty verdict in some local trial that meant absolutely nothing to me. They never let ER finish and I COULD NOT BELIEVE that they couldn't wait 8 little minutes to report their story. News? I suppose so. Worthy of chopping off a hit TV show? I think not. Nothing short of a Presidential assassination is worth that. And if that ever happened, say goodbye to every other show for days and days.

You can't get away from the news even if you don't watch the cable news channels. And with the glut of news programs on network television (20/20 three times a week; Dateline five times a week; 60 Minutes twice a week, etc., etc.), I find more and more often I watch the "gripping" pieces with much skepticism and rolling of the eyes. Just how many "stirring" and "moving" puff pieces can one endure? How many "you won't believe" stories (hear that, 20/20?); "10,000-month indepth investigations"; "warnings" to parents; and "exclusive" (it is to laugh) stories can one watch before one explodes? Considering that both 60 Minutes and Dateline have been embarrased by inaccurate stories (then forced to apologize and explain themselves), how can anyone believe the "you won't believe" stories on these shows? I sure don't. I greet each story with skepticism and cynicism and wonder which aspects are true and which are, while maybe not UNtrue, at least skewed. And it seems the more a program brags about its accomplishments, the less credibility I give them. Dateline is the biggest offender. After almost every commercial break, they prattle off a lengthy list of obscure news awards that no one outside the business has ever heard of, and proclaim that they have more news awards than anyone else. What is this supposed to mean? The one with the most toys WINS? Besides, any show on five times a week is bound to come up with at least one worthy story a year. We'd be better served to have one show a week with some substance rather than five filled with puff and nonsense.

I wish news would get back to being just that: NEWS. Not sugary puff pieces. Or lengthy commentaries. Or repetitive fill-the-void blatherings. Or rambling speculations. Or unimportant non-news. Although I like being kept informed on what's happening in the world, I neither need nor want day-long newscasts. Webster's defines news as "a report of a recent event : new information : matter that is interesting to newspaper readers or news broadcast audiences : matter that is suitable for news copy". Current "news" fails on all but the first definition. 
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