I Witness News


News organizations are always using gimmicks to get people to watch.The “tease” is probably the most widely used and the most annoying: Just tell me now what common food may kill me before I go to lunch, not at 11.

KNBC Los Angeles this summer has been running a 3-4 p.m. newscast with a previously used gimmick—the anchor, in this case the affable Ross Becker, “reporting” from inside the newsroom with a roving camera following him as he wonders from desk to desk, wearing a tie but no jacket, shirt-sleeves rolled up. He's a pro at this faux authentic journalism thing, having once upon a time roamed another Los Angeles TV newsroom.

Anyone in the business knows that the advantage of running a local newscast, as opposed to airing syndicated programming, is that the station gets to pocket all of the ad revenue. Besides, KNBC doesn't have much in the way of programming for the afternoons until Megan Mullally officially arrives in September.

Further, the motivation behind using this news reporting style is to try to achieve higher ratings—or in this case just to keep the time period warm until fall, preventing defections to big draws like Oprah and Judge Judy on other stations.

But yet the question persists: what’s up with this?Reporting the news this way couldn't be because it’s more interesting—it isn’t. Instead of simply going to the scene of a possible drowning in the Los Angeles River, Becker recently rushed over to the desk of  a guy telling the audience that he was staying on top of the story—and yes, someone may have drowned (sadly, that turned out to be the case).

Adding to the excitement quotient of the second-hand account was the action in the background, where a bunch of people either stood motionless or sat at their desks. Maybe this news style is supposed to appeal to the voyeur and create a sense of hustle and bustle—a reverse take on the glass-enclosed, street-level network morning shows, where goofy Uncle Walter is seen waving and jumping in the background as the latest war casualties are read on the air.

Voyeurs watching KNBC’s 3 o’clock news are probably going to get a little bored.So, maybe the real reason behind this let me see how you’re working approach is to prove that, yes, they are working—sort of a credibility meter.Credibility, after all, is huge when it comes to news.In other words, if I don’t see you doing your job, you probably aren’t doing it—all of which makes me really glad that no one is questioning the integrity of proctologists.

By Jim Benson