One Person's Opinion

A compendium of random thoughts regarding politics, society, feminism, sex, law, and anything else on my mind. POST YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE TIME INDICATOR BELOW THE POST YOU WISH TO COMMENT ON. RSS FEED AVAILABLE AT

Andrew Sullivan
Attorney Shopping Links
Bag and Baggage
Ernie the Attorney
Eve Tushnet
Gail Davis
How Appealing
Lehrer NewsHour
National Law Journal
National Review
New Republic
Talking Points Memo
Virginia Postrel
Volokh Conspiracy
War Liberal
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Thursday, September 03, 2009
This morning, there was a line of media trucks as far as the eye could see, shown on television reporting from Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA. What was happening there? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Now, tonight, something will be happening there. Michael Jackson is going to be interred there. Many people would say that this is not a very important event and is a product of our tabloid celebrity culture. Fine. But to me, those "live" television trucks say something else-- something that would be just as true if they were lined up to cover a more important event.

Let's start with the fact that they were there at 7 in the morning. Nothing was going on at the cemetery at 7 in the morning. Indeed, one of the reporters actually said on the news that the trucks were interfering with parents trying to get their kids to a nearby elementary school on the first day of classes.

So why, exactly, are they out there, at a place where nothing is going to happen for 12 hours, interfering with unfortunate parents who are trying to drop their kids at school? Because the local morning "news" airs at 7 in the morning.

And that's the first thing you need to know about live reporting. Very little of it actually carries an event that is going on live. Not none of it, mind you-- those same morning news shows have been doing completely legitimate live reporting on the fires burning in the Angeles National Forest. But little of it.

Usually, live reports are either from the scene of an event that will happen sometime in the future or an event that has ended but occurred at sometime in the past. The live reporter is standing on a sidewalk in front of a place where nothing is going on (except other reporters also doing their live reports). The same words could be delivered from the studio. Indeed, in some cases, the reporter might be more comfortable and prepared doing it in a studio (think inclement weather, or stories that are more reliant on old-fashioned shoe leather reporting, phone calls, and the like).

And the cynicism inherent in the live reporter delivering the report when nothing is going on is breathtaking. Unless the event is going on during the newscast, you are not getting any benefit from having the reporter on the scene. The live report suggests importance, but if the event were really important, the station would break into regular programming to go to the live reporter while the event is in progress. Ever notice how they rarely do this?

Of course, one could argue that one advantage to at least some live reporting is that it places the reporter closer to people who might have information about the story. Thus, when the local news put their reporters near the courthouse for a story regarding a court proceeding, they theoretically can schmooze with the lawyers and gather additional information. However, in many cases, as I noted, there's nobody on the "scene" except other reporters, and even when there is a theoretical opportunity for access, I am simply not sure how much of this really goes on. I don't get the feeling that these on-scene reporters are doing a lot of actually reporting, as opposed to reading copy with a pretty backdrop.

And that's where the live report originates from the actual scene of something important or newsworthy. In many cases, the live report originates from a completely artificial location. For instance, if there's a story on unsafe food at supermarkets, they go live to outside of a supermarket, even though there isn't any unsafe food on the shelves of that supermarket. We had a local news reporter get electrocuted and seriously hurt during a report from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, when the satellite truck's dish got caught in some powerlines and conducted high voltage electricity into the reporter's body. The thing was, the reporter was doing a report on allegations of mistreatment of bodies in a cemetery in Riverside County, 60 miles east of Hollywood. The station didn't want to spend the money to send the reporter out to the facility actually named, so they sent her to the closest cemetery to the studio, in Hollywood, instead.

It's also important to note that these live reports interfere with people's daily lives. Every time a reporter takes up space on a sidewalk, they are blocking access to pedestrians who need to get somewhere. Every time a reporter sets up for a live shot at night on the evening news, they are shining blinding light which can cause auto accidents. And when hordes of reporters "cover" the same story, they make a neighborhood unliveable, they make it hard for people to get to work and do their business, and they essentially take over an area and make it unpleasant for human habitation until they are through.

All this, for what? Studies show that local news viewers like live reports. I don't doubt that's true. But what I do doubt is whether that is true when the live nature of the reports don't add anything. I am sure, for instance, that viewers love freeway car chases or live fire coverage. I suspect that viewers like the Michael Jackson hoopla as well. But do they really care whether that Riverside cemetery is delivered live or from the studio?

News producers have a responsibility to the public. There's no particular reason why they should be running roughshod over neighborhoods when it isn't necessary to do serious news reporting. For many stories where they just want live pictures, maybe it would be better to use pools where there is one set of cameras and one truck rather than 17. But the insane chase of the "live shot" is bad for our quality of life, and it doesn't serve the democratic values that are the basis of America's tradition of a free press. If some government decided to crack down on this (as long as access is ensured for serious stories where on-scene reporting is necessary), I wouldn't mind a bit.


"And here we are live at the site, where nothing is happening..."

The reason of course is TV "news" must present video candy, moving images, or risk losing viewers. Even when there are no relevant images.

When the story is live and the images are relevant, you can't beat TV for coverage. What does the storm look like right now? How are the police treating the protesters? How are the protesters treating the city? And so on.

When the story happened hours ago and no one harvested video, your local TV news will send out their "reporter" to "report" live from the site. Where nothing is happening.

Back to you, Steve.
I don't know how often you check this, Dilan, but I wanted to say something here and not on Volokh: I'm concerned about your psychological state.

This isn't meant to be flippant or a trump card; it's an honest assessment... and one that I should have made sooner.

I've debated many, many people about abortion who span the full spectrum; none have felt the need to be remotely as condescending, nasty, and personal as you. It is deeply disturbing to me so see another human being who acts like you do; beyond the fact that it's utterly bizarre, it's obvious to me that there is no way that you can be a contented person.

You can disagree with me on the issues all you want and you don't even have to respect my right to my opinion; however, this business of heaping bile upon me is wrong. It's wrong for anyone forced to read what you write (the VC is supposed to be a community, not a sewer) and it's wrong that you would think it acceptable to treat another human being that way.

To be painfully honest, every time I see what you write to me (and me alone; no other pro-lifer on the VC is subject to the same nastiness), I question your mental balance. Nastiness doesn't come from kind people; unbalanced reactions don't come from balanced people.

I don't know what you do for perspective - friends? psychologists? - but whatever bothers you so much that you feel the need to treat me like this is something that you should fix.

I say this not as your enemy in the abortion wars, but as someone who does not enjoy seeing other human beings in such obvious distress.
If you need to prove my point, go right ahead.

There's no need, Dilan, to make personal attacks. None. You aren't "pushing back" at me intellectually; you're attacking my character, gender, intellect, education, knowledge, and character. (There may be a few other things in there; honestly, it's hard to keep track.)

If you honestly believe that your responses are "pushing back" in an appropriate manner, then you need help. If you honestly believe that your responses are intellectual arguments, then you need to get out of the liberal bubble in which the circular reasoning of "conservatives are evil and we're going to demonstrate that conservatives are evil by pointing out how evil they are" is accepted as rational discourse.

Either way, it's a problem.

I am actually a bit sorry for you; the bile and the sewage isn't coming from a person who is content with his life (nor who has a balanced, thoughtful perspective on the world); your words are those of a human being who is miserable with his lot in life.

Whatever is making you this way, Dilan, is fixable. It's not my problem, though.
I agree to jpk's views.
its not too easy task to coverage the events. & through these TV news we know that what happened in the city or world man.
Post a Comment