I value the decades I spent in television news. Helping people to understand the events and issues of the day was important work that brought satisfaction and, at its best, promoted the democratic ideal of an informed citizenry. Now from the Society of Professional Journalists come two items about the state of broadcast journalism that are enough to embarrass me on behalf of the profession, or craft, and make my teeth hurt. I hope these travesties move news consumers in Tyler, Texas, and Portland, Maine, to demand corrective action, but my guess is that the line between news and entertainment has been so thoroughly plowed under that audiences don’t see anything amiss. Viewers have been conditioned by local and national television and cable news to accept a standard of professionalism dominated by the ethics of beauty contests and show business promoters.
Here is the first item, from SPJ’s electronic newsletter :
BOOB TUBE? A television station in Tyler, Texas, has a beauty pagaent queen with no journalism experience anchoring a news show. The woman’s experiences are being chronicled for a reality television program titled, “Anchorwoman.” Cary Darling of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported SPJ President Christine Tatum’s reaction to the station’s hiring decision.
Next: This item from Tatum’s own newsletter. Be sure to follow her link to the television news staff’s promotion of a movie. The first time I watched it, I thought it was a gag, a parody. The second time, I shouted bad words at the screen.
Then, there’s the news team at WGME in Portland, Maine, which appears in one of the biggest assaults on journalism integrity ever to hit the silver screen. But, hey, I give them credit for managing to promote a theater and their newscast while also directing moviegoers to turn off their cell phones and pick up their trash. That takes real talent!
Wake up, people. You’re harming journalism — and looking fabulous as you do so.
I don’t know who the news director is at WGME, but the Radio Television News Directors Association does. The RTNDA should reprimand him or her and the news director at KYTX in Tyler for their breaches of professional standards and for further disillusioning Americans about the reliability of broadcast news.