Tom Hanks, Source - "News of the World," Perfect World Pictures

The Best News Coverage is Real, Live, Balanced, Professional

Hero image source – “News of the World,” Perfect World Pictures

“My name is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, and I’m here tonight to bring you news from across this great world of ours. Now, I know how life is in these parts, working a trade sunup to sundown. No time for reading newspapers.”  — Captain Kidd, “News of the World,” Perfect World Pictures, 2020

We seem to be at a pivotal point in history where local and national media (print/radio/TV) once held in high regard for honest/ethical news/information are increasingly scorned, held in disbelief or perhaps worst of all…ignored.

In recent years, hundreds of newspapers have closed.  Radio and TV news program ratings have shrunk as more and more viewers – especially younger generations – turn to streaming entertainment.

To be blunt about the situation, losing these independent news/information voices will mean we are totally s*****d.

Full disclosure, we have a double degree from a respected college in journalism and radio & TV. 

First, let us emphasize that the outlets are not a public service.

They’re businesses and with the advent of social media and now “AI generated news coverage” it’s a d*** tough profession and business.

But the news business is really two equal and important segments – local/regional and national/international.

People somewhat follow national/international press, they skim their personal/professional media, they catch the news summary/highlights on TV, but they read their local news.

Local news (print, radio, TV) binds a community of people together.

While people don’t like the coverage or agree with it from time to time, it holds officials and public institutions accountable.   

We live in the heart of Silicon Valley, have two dailies and a number of weeklies. 

In addition, there is an array of local radio and TV news organizations.

We didn’t realize it until recently, but our area is more fortunate than many cities/towns across the US that have only one and increasingly, no newspapers that cover, explain and interpret local activities.

For example, our local PA Post brought to light the fact that the city council was holding a closed session, that the city hall had barred access to certain areas of the citizen’s building and that building permits were being issued for projects that barely addressed affordable housing (yeah, that’s a big problem in CA).

The news items aren’t going to change the course of the country or world, but they did shine the spotlight on and hold local officials accountable.

Climate Change – Local news media (print, radio, TV) is vital for keeping people aware of what is happening in their area, but it is becoming more difficult for them to survive in the increasingly on-line world. 

Good local news organizations are problem solvers.   They identify area problems and help the community to come together to solve them.

They show how you are related to people in your area and how together, you can make a difference–at least in your small segment of the world.

Losing that voice, as so many communities have, is like losing the area’s soul.

Local TV stations also struggle to regain their lost audience and revenue as people – and advertisers – moved to streaming services for entertainment and social media for questionable news bites. 

The market changed from the days when studios/networks sold their programming to local broadcasters, and they derived major income from national and local advertisers. Fortunately, Pew Research found Millennial/Gen Z folks still seek out local TV news.

Credible – When people want to find out what is going on in their area, the first source they turn to is local media.  For snapshot and overview updates, it’s TV and radio.  When it’s a more in-depth discussion, it’s local newspapers.

Sometimes, it’s to obtain more details.  Sometimes, for the local flavor with regional, national, global news.  Sometimes, it’s simply to see trusted faces.

Most local broadcast operations were late to make the move to streaming to replace/expand their viewing audiences.

They also had to become more resourceful in presenting/ “selling” the news.

Enliven News – Local TV stations need to do more to attract viewers in their communities than in the past when talking heads and information was enough.  Stations like the Bay Area station KPIX and PIX+ television stations have added access to news with FAST channels, expanded local highlight programs and VR-enabled news/weather coverage. 

Our local CBS station spiced up their weather presentation with a VR, stage, making it more interesting to see coverage in three dimensions rather than a one-dimensional map.

Silicon Valley stations were early to the table, offering viewers their news programs on FAST services such as YouTube, Pluto and Tubi as well as their own apps so people could catch the 6 p.m. news at 6:30, 7, whenever.

Prime time local news is now when it is convenient for the viewer and on the screen they have handy at the time.

Local broadcasters are also becoming more creative and broadening their local coverage/appeal with original programming spotlighting area businesses, places to visit and events/activities going on in the area.

The expansion is designed to educate, inform and attract citizens to help them understand and appreciate their community. And yes, it’s also done to attract local/national advertisers to their audiences.

Believable – With the growing number of information sources available, the most credible is the local news outlets. 

According to a recent Pew Research study, the need for local news and its trust remains strong:

  • The majority of Americans find local TV, radio and newspapers to be trustworthy and social media least trustworthy
  • People feel more satisfied with their local news coverage because they are more familiar with the reporters and news anchors who live in the local community
  • There is a strong sentiment that local news keeps them informed about, connected to their community
  • More than half of Americans (62 percent) watch local TV news daily but only 20 percent look at their local newspaper

But when it comes to national and international news coverage, it’s a different situation with a growing number of adults getting their news on social media sites and, more specifically, on YouTube and TikTok.

Natural Selection – Younger people around the globe are much more likely to first turn to their mobile device and favorite social media sites to stay abreast in what is going on around them and on subjects of most interest to them. 

In the past two years, the number of US adults getting news primarily from TikTok has roughly tripled from 3 – 10 percent while others have used X (Twitter) or Facebook for comfort news – news that aligns with their allegiances, leanings.

The under 30 crowd is even more likely to say they get their news on social media video sites. Gen Z and the younger crowd feel the news is direct, is “unfiltered” by news managers bound by corporate agendas and free of political bias/agendas–especially when it supports their position.

Realtime Interpretation – Social media has enabled anyone/everyone to be a journalist and document/discuss/explain their version of facts in realtime.  That includes young people in the middle of wars such as the young lady fighting in the Ukraine. 

In a way, it is a problem of mass media’s own making – large for-profit corporations, widely dispersed organizations, news coverage that goes through various stages of review/fact checking/approval before it is presented to the public.

Social media doesn’t suffer from this structure.

As long as the piece isn’t (totally) inflammatory, derogatory or violent; anyone can call themselves a journalist without a license or academic training and post their “news.”

It’s all about eyeballs and clicks.

But national/international with equal coverage of each side becomes difficult, especially when you’re dealing with contentious or questionable topics such as flat vs. round earth.

Facts vary widely, depending on whether you are right or left leaning. In his book Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann noted that journalism isn’t a public service. Journalists are employees of large corporations that are not only expected to make a profit but also set the organization’s news coverage guide rails.

Balancing Act – National and international news organizations range from solidly conservative to heavily liberal and centrally balanced so, coverage of the same subject can vary widely, depending on the outlet. 

The most widely respected and followed media (note: this is only a sampling of countries) strive to deliver more centrally balanced news – favoring neither the left nor right-include:

  • US – AP, Reuters, NPR, PBS, CBS, NYTimes, CNN, NBC
  • UK – BBC, The Guardian, Daily Globe
  • Australia – Nine, News, ABC
  • Canada – Daily Hive, CTV, CBC
  • India – DD News, The Times of India, Zee News

In our opinion, national/global news media leaders – newspaper, radio, television – work hard to determine and present the big picture to the public fairly and truthfully, especially with events like the US elections on the horizon.

But it’s tough, d*** tough.

It Depends –  Seasoned journalists, and the public at large, have a different view of how well news organizations are delivering balanced news and how they correct misinformation.  Whether you lean left, right or centric, your view of their news coverage varies from what journalists feel they are doing. 

Unfortunately, while we believe that the print/television news we follow are doing their best to fulfill their obligations to the viewing/reading public, your opinion as to their success in meeting those goals/objectives could differ … significantly.  

The reliance on established media outlets has shifted to instant gratification outlets.

Changing News – It takes time for local/national news organizations to get the news and validate what is presented as factual.  Social media makes it easy for anyone to post their “breaking news” even before the topic is fact checked.

It’s still a business of eyeballs.

News is no longer searched, researched, vetted, checked, verified. It is captured by anyone with a smartphone and posted without a token of credibility checking. 

Social media has taken a strong lead from publisher William Randolph Hearst  who coined the phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Right, wrong, in good taste or bad it doesn’t matter.


Also from Andy Marken

Second-guessing Viewers is a Tough Business
“When two hunters go after the same prey, they usually end up …
Not Everyone Likes the Same Video Content and Tastes Change
Hero image source – "Dream Scenario," A24 “Maybe you should take a …

When the circulation drops and advertising revenue slips, staff changes are made and management’s priorities change. For example, shortly after Jonah Peretti purchased BuzzFeed, he said the Pulitzer Prize-winning news division would transform to more digital media economics.

Obsessed with the potential of AI, Peretti dispensed with professional journalists and implemented AI creativity.

The formerly $1.5B public company is now valued below $75M.

A more “open” move by Elon Musk and Twitter (now X) has suffered similar deterioration. A recent Gallup poll found that 39 percent of Americans have zero trust in mass media, across all political affiliations while 32 percent have a great deal (fair amount) of trust in media’s news coverage.

Truthful Presentation – Everyone – young/old, male/female – has their own opinion on whether news organizations are doing a good job of presenting factual information.  There is always a built-in personal bias to what is said and the way a topic is covered. 

The picture is similar around the globe.

No Shortage – In today’s instant on, instant access world, there is a dizzying array of local and national news coverage and people gravitate to those sources that align with their personal biases.

A recent Statista report found that TV was the most typical outlet for investigative news and current affairs coverage globally with the exception of India where 82 percent of respondents cited social media as their main news source.

Sixty-seven percent of the worldwide respondents said they read news online and from free websites.  Paying for news is not appealing to consumers.

To attract and increase paying subscribers, The NY Times has added news coverage tier pricing as well as gaming, cooking and athletic offerings.

Natural Selection – Depending on your version of what is truthful, factual and needed, people will choose the sources that align with their position, especially when it comes to local and national elections.  Accuracy depends on personal opinions.  

In announcing the reorganization of global news service, CNN, WBD’s David Zaslav told the remaining team, “We are not an advocacy network and that Sir Mark Thompson (former head of NY Times and BBC) would bring the network back to its roots to be a news organization of objective journalism and telling the truth.”

In a time of super-automated, hyper-personalization, perhaps fair and balanced reporting can bring the local, regional, national and global audience back to middle-of-the-road thinking, discussion and action.

It certainly beats the h*** out of digital avatars delivering processed news and AI-generated copy, headlines and news curation feeding us sound bites.

As Captain Kidd said in News of the World, See all these words printed in a line one after the other? Put ’em all together and you have a story.”

Speaking for all professional journalists, take Captain Kidd’s advice when he said, Let me do that work for you. And maybe, just for tonight, we can escape our troubles, and hear the great changes that are happening out there.”

If this resonates with you, pass the message along and around the globe. We can’t afford to lose our independent professional media voices.


Enjoying the news? Sign up for the Creative COW Newsletter!

Sign up for the Creative COW newsletter and get weekly updates on industry news, forum highlights, jobs, inspirational tutorials, tips, burning questions, and more! Receive bulletins from the largest, longest-running community dedicated to supporting professionals working in film, video, and audio.

Enter your email address, and your first and last name below!

Sign up:

* indicates required

Responses

We use anonymous cookies to give you the best experience we can.
Our Privacy policy | GDPR Policy