If you already know it, is it news?

If you already know it, is it news?
: If I ran a TV news operation (not likely), I’d come on the air on this day every year and say: “People, you know and I know that there’s going to be a lot of traffic today, right? Busy roads, busy airport. Been there, done that story a million times. So I’m not going to insult your intelligence and do it again. I’m not going to waste my precious resources and do it again. I’m going to give you the news, instead.”

You wonder why young people don’t watch or read the news much? Could it be that they often turn on the TV and say, “I already knew that.” What’s the value in telling me what I already know? Is that news? Or is it just a waste of my time?

  • Finlay

    In Colorado we get the same thing every time it snows in the mountains. They send the reporter up to the Eisenhower Tunnel (and its always the asian reporter, no matter which station) to how us, yeah it is actually snowing in the Rocky Mountains. Please it snows over 300″ a year in the mountains, it’s why people move here for crying out loud. We know already.

  • Bjorn

    This is the most common sense critique and proposal about improving contemporary TV (meaning it stands zero chance of being adopted) you’re likely to hear in a good while.

  • Jeff (not the Jeff)

    I have another one for you — on Friday, all of the local evening newscasts will begin by going live to some reporter stationed at some local mall who will talk about the “busiest shopping day of the year.” Drives me freaking nuts.

  • If their news videos have real content and no bias, then it will be the first time that viewers will be happy on two counts: 1. the news they want to see and hear, and 2. actually being treated as adult, thinking viewers, not primary school kids who are too dumb to understand anything at higher than 3rd grade level.

  • Not just “I already knew that.” but also “I don’t care about that.”
    When Channel 6 WTEV, a New Bedford-Providence ABC channel, began in the mid-60s, they had little money but they did have a police scanner. The news led every night with a fender-bender on Rt. 195, and proceeded through the cop log.
    Throwing more money at newsgathering might help, but the “push” of broadcast is frustrating to viewers — stations seem to be deciding that the lowest common denominators are what will interest everybody, but everybody in the mall knows what happened there. What else happened?
    It will be interesting when citizen video is uploaded every day to be vetted, details gathered, etc.: A new kind of bottom-up journalism that begins with the pictures from somebody who was in the right place, and somebody else builds the rest of the story.
    We’ll have lots of choice; traffic and shopping will be first-person reports from airports, trains, roads and busses and, from shoppers, anywhere there are great sales.
    With that big reporting burden lifted, stations might have to report what’s going on where the public can’t see, and what can’t be photographed. (Perhaps more on how proposed actions of government and corporations will affect representative local people.)

  • button

    I actually turned on the TV network news this morning promptly at 7am which I rarely do. If I’m up early, I sometimes turn on BBC at 6am on a station with poor reception. But this morning, I watched US.
    And what was the first story? An intensely cheerful and upbeat story about busy travel conditions for this holiday period. I got so disgusted, I turned off the TV immediately.

  • John Anderson

    I don’t watch my local news stations (Hi, Sheila L, I do read your blog/column) because in the half hour –
    . ten minutes of sports
    . six minutes of weather
    . four minutes of local news
    . two minutes national/world news
    . eight minutes adverts
    Ok, maybe I exaggerate and there’s five minutes of local news, or three of national/world. And a couple of stations have a news hour – double all the above (twenty minutes of sports…) which is a bit better. But mostly by giving me the equivalent of a headline I can then go looking for on the ‘net.
    Not really their fault. Just reading the local newspaper aloud would take hours (and probably be boring), and for sports fans seeing video of some plays instead of a word description is great. But don’t expect me to regard these as “news” programs except for occasional video of local news.

  • In other Thanksgiving-related “news,” the White House turkey has received a Presidential pardon.

  • Dan

    Don’t forget the perennial New Year’s Eve story — “Pity the poor people like us who have to work on New Year’s Eve!” An interview with a cop, a janitor, and a telephone lineman will follow.
    My wife calls this AntiNews, because a single particle of it is enough to banish real news to the other end of the room.

  • cj

    But, Jeff, you hit the nail on the head: Saith the newsman — “I’m not going to waste my precious resources…”
    No, “investigative” reporting — or, at this point in time, going deeper than “scratching the surface” is what requires “resources.”
    Policy stances? Analysis of impact? Researching the issues? Looking past sound bites? THAT requires “resources.”
    “Not going to insult your intelligence?” Not even on the radar.
    Either 1) You don’t have the intelligence to be insulted, or 2) if you do, you aren’t watching them, anyway.
    Long live the blogosphere!

  • A Boston meteorologist once said, on a local broadcasting list, that news directors considered weather to be the perfect story because weather doesn’t require any research on the part of the reporting staff.

  • Carol Marin basically did that during her brief attempt at a more intelligent newscast on WBBM in Chicago.
    If there wasn’t much in the way of sports or weather, those segments were very short. There weren’t people doing a live stand-up from a place an event happened hours before. They were in the studio.
    When Shimon Perez was in town, she interviewed him for 7 minutes. There was also commentary from a range of people.
    The coverage of national news was often better than Dan Rather’s.
    It certainly wasn’t perfect (the website sucked and they didn’t use online in the way they could, not even an email newsletter), but it wasn’t given enough time.
    If a station did a similar newscast in the Bay area, it would get a large audience. But nobody would invest the money or the time (except maybe KQED if they got a huge grant or corporate sponsor).
    I sure wish some station at least tried given the horribly inadequate coverage of who will be mayor and DA in San Francisco for the next 4 years.