Monday, June 22, 2009

Being a National Newscast in the Age of Technology

While it is truly amazing to see the images flowing out of Iran in spite of the government crackdown on the international press, I also wonder about the sensationalism of it all and national newscasts becoming like the latest reality show where the profit swings largely one way in lieu of five minutes of fame or infamy aided by Twitter and Youtube the other way. I know that the correlation might seem far-fetched as we are talking here about life and death now in Iran and profit and popularity seem nil in comparison. But consider this.

While the motive for those sending videos and pictures into the various newscasts may be to expressly inform the world of what's happening in Iran, watching a woman die on TV and a man been shot to death while loved ones scream for them to pull through seem to have a bit of sensationalism that wasn't altogether necessary. Do we show such in war? But I guess it's about ratings. After all, national newscasts seem in competition with the likes of Youtube. Are we talking "relevance" here and who has it--perhaps more important who owns it

Watching the news yesterday evening I also could not help but to associate various newscasters' responses with "this is our real moment" or "this is MY real moment as I report this story." There was a hint of glee that couldn't be associated with those horrific images. I never got this sense growing up listening to Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters (though it has been amazing to see her evolution, some might say devolution on the screen and in print) as a kid no matter the travesty being reported.

Sensationalism is how reality shows are peddled and local news too. Now, it appears that national news, with the help of Twitter and Youtube, are also in the business of peddling sensationalism. While watching the news yesterday evening, I also wondered who was profiting most. While it is understood that the international media was blocked, I also wonder if those who were sending photos and videos were being paid for their submittals. I mean, the networks are profiting through rating and ads, no? How about Twitter and Youtube? Whose profiting here? Or, is it a question of benefit and in this case profit does not matter? Is it an even exchange?

In this brave new world of technology and free information, I wonder if networks will get richer, professionals who work for them will get poorer, and those who send photographs and videos in will simply be "working" for free as videos stream in and photographs are plastered across on the of the likes of CNN. This network is fond of saying, "send your iReports to" If I were to do so, will I be compensated and how have my streaming video and photos changed you professionally? In this age of technology will national newscasts become mere sensational personal profit seekers?


Marion said...

I seldom watch the news anymore because of the very reasons you stated. I do listen to NPR---at least I don't have to have the horrid visuals there.

The most perfect example of sensationalism, to me, is during hurricanes when those poor reporters are standing on beaches, flying almost horizontally in the wind, ducking debris with a microphone in their hands 'reporting'! Are ratings worth a person losing their life over? I don't think so. An excellent post!

Judith Ellis said...

Indeed, Marion! Along with listening to NPR, I watch C-Span. I have watched less of network news in the last month or so. With regards to those reporters standing out in the middle of hurricanes, more power to them. But I would not rate their professionalism or bravery based on it. It just seems foolish to me.