Local TV

Positives of Being Less Negative

9/20/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

The day after the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur is the best day
of the year for two reasons. First, since I had to fast the entire
24 hours before—no easy task for a cherubic individual like yours truly—I get to make up for lost
time, guilt-free. Second and more importantly,
having spent a day atoning for all my sins, I
get a fresh start.

This year, one of my goals is to not always
paint everything with a negative brush, whether
in my life, with my overrated Vikings (oops,
that didn’t last long) or as an editor of a magazine.
If my fears are correct and this current
economic “recovery” indeed is only rooted on
Wall Street and not Main Street (sorry, I’m not
a believer in such a thing as a jobless recovery),
I will still try to accentuate the positives—such
as the great innovations consistently taking
place in our business.

And those who run local news—and cut the
teases—could stand to follow my lead. I get the
“if it bleeds, it leads” thinking, and have been
known to slap a headline on my magazine’s cover that is a bit more trumped-up than the
actual story suggests, but let’s all take a second
once in a while and be mindful of tone.

There are times it’s downright tough to watch
local news, especially in Los Angeles. First off,
the weather is the same every day here and this
is the worst sports town in the country, so those
two draws are dead. But the actual news itself,
not unlike any city around the country, is geared
toward the sensational. And I get it: Local news
is a business, and a challenged one, after all.

I don’t know how to write this and not
sound Pollyanna-ish, but it’s true: Times are
bad enough, and local news still has influence
in setting the tone for many people’s lives.
There is inherent responsibility there. So, can
we keep that in mind and not make everything
so damned negative all the time?

A perfect example happened last Wednesday night when the wife and I were watching
Hellcats on The CW. And yes, she did have a
very large pistol pointed at my head, demanding
I watch.

Near the end, on came the promo for the upcoming
10 p.m. news, which featured a tease
for a story about a female getting abducted and
raped near a college campus, and then video of
some cops (um, allegedly) pummeling a (um,
alleged) suspect. I thought that gruesome tease
was just wonderful in a show clearly targeted
at young girls (you know, and men like me
with guns pointed at their heads).

Funny thing is, if you actually stuck around
and watched the news, you were given some
light fare, in the form of inadvertent comedy.
During what should have been a serious story
on the abduction, the only people the station
apparently could find to interview were a
group of three young ladies who a) hadn’t even
heard about the crime, and b) smiled and almost
laughed through their interviews, barely
able to contain their glee about being on TV
as they told the reporter they couldn’t believe
something like this could happen. I wasn’t sure
if they meant the crime or that the news station
actually aired the interviews.

I don’t mean to pick on one station, because
the same thing goes on everywhere. And I’m
not (completely) stupid: Light and fluffy fare
doesn’t make for great teases, much less ratings.
But news directors do still set the rhythms
for many people’s evenings.

I know shows like the early Katie Couric
iterations on CBS, Nightline and the morning
shows like the Today show all have been
trashed for being too soft at times in tone. But
at least they aren’t always so focused on the
negative that I want to kill myself.

Then again, if I did—as long as I did it in a
scandalous or sensational fashion—most local
news directors (and I’m guessing more than a
few of my readers) probably wouldn’t mind
at all.

E-mail comments to
bgrossman@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman

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