Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Local TV News Analysis

I flipped through the channels at 9:00 PM on the TV at my girlfriend's apartment at Northstar, and I found a local news show produced by WGN. I assumed that this was a local Minneapolis news show, so I began logging it. After about 5 minutes, I realized that it was Chicago local news. At first I thought I would have to start all over with a new station, but I figured that most local news sources must have similar trends, and Chicago is relatively close to Minnesota, so I continued to log the show. If anything, I figured it might be an interesting counter-point to local Minneapolis news. Here's what I saw on the hour long show:

9:00- Top Story: Murder/rape crime
9:03- Soldier honored locally
9:03- Murder case in which bond was denied
9:04- Local fire
9:04- City elections- candidacy discussion
9:04- Public school deficit $700 Million
9:05- CTA naming rights possible in the future (such as "Taco Bell Station")
Interviews- around downtown Chicago:
2 possibly homosexual males
2 college students
Asian male
Latino woman
9:08- Poll: text in opinion regarding the naming rights.
9:08- COMING UP: Bed bugs, Navy Pier makeover.
9:12- Office bed bugs:
Clip from a spanish news station
Interview with an exterminator (gross teeth)
Disgusting image of bed bugs bites on an arm
Interview with AFSCME Spokesperson
Quote on screen from source
9:16- COMING UP: Protest turns violent, Missile?
9:18- Protest in London- against boosting college tuition-
Video of people with fire, etc.
9:19- Bomb found on plane
9:19- Stranded cruise ship- bad conditions
Voice on phone
9:20- Vapor trail- not a rocket- must have been from plane
9:21- Tomorrow's Tribune: Girls sports lawsuit
9:21- New vision for Navy Pier- hotel, concert venue, etc
9:22- Giant blue eye art piece closed
9:22- COMING UP: Scared straight images on cigarettes, Harry Potter
COMMERCIAL BREAK- local lottery
9:25- National Lincoln Memorial (Veterans Day tomorrow)-
Video of cemetery with TAPS playing in background
Interview with director
9:30- Weather banter
9:31- Weather
9:36- COMING UP: Texting Teens!
9:39- Medical Watch- scare tactic of gross pictures on cigarette cases.
9:40- Texting leads to more sex and drugs!
9:40- Kids sense stress- parents should talk to kids about it.
9:41- COMING UP: Harry Potter, sports.
9:44- Weather
9:46- Harry Potter- interview with Daniel Radcliff- with WGN National interviewer.
9:48- COMING UP: Football, basketball, sports!
9:51- Poll results from text-in poll
9:51- Sports
9:55- Anchors say goodnight and thanks for watching.
9:55- Photos of the day- Photo Montage
10:00- END

Time Devoted To:
News: 22 Minutes:
(Crime news: 6 Minutes
Political news: 6 Minutes
Veterans Day news: 6 Minutes
Scares news (bombs/missiles): 4 Minutes)
Weather: 8 minutes
Sports: 4 minutes
Consumer/Health/Entertainment: 9 minutes
Ads: 18 minutes

My experience:
Overall, I kept getting sensing that it was constantly over-sensationalistic and I found myself saying, "Wow, this is ridiculous".
Obviously, before I watched the news show, I figured that the majority of the time spend would be with advertisements and sensationalistic news stories. I figured that the top story would be a horrendous crime- it was a murder/rape crime of a 3 year old girl.
I did not think there would actually be a legitimate amount of time spent on "scare stories"- news in which there was a event that could have been a real scare, but ended up not being so. One of these was absolutely ridiculous- It was a story about a person who filmed a vapor stream that he saw in the sky that he thought was a missile. The news anchors said that in reality, this was most likely just a vapor stream from an airplane (OBVIOUSLY!!!).
Another absolutely ridiculous story was about teen texting. The anchors said that there was a recent study, which claimed that the more teens text, the more likely they are to have sex and do drugs (OH MY GOD- REALLY?! THAT IS ABSOLUTELY PREPOSTEROUS! YOU CAN'T GET ANYMORE SENSATIONALISTIC THAN THAT!). It was very upsetting for me to see that the news would actually say that story.
Finally, I can't believe (well, I guess I can believe unfortunately), that Harry Potter qualifies as legitimate news, and a story that was talked about for a large portion in the show to get the viewers excited about it. It was a 2 minute interview with Daniel Radcliff. Wow, okay, great news. Thanks WGN.
I apologize for the informal descriptions of my feelings regarding this news show, however, I just feel so strongly about its absolute ridiculousness.
The visual techniques of the news show reiterates the extreme sensationalist quality of the news stories. They tried to show the most extreme depictions. In the bed bugs story they showed an exaggerated, disgusting image of the arm FULL of bed bug bites. In the protest story, they showed the most extreme looking individuals with the most extreme items in their hands- flames, weapons, etc. They refuse to show protesters simply holding up signs, not being directly violent. At the same time, when interviewing people to be shown during stories, they tried to show a wide variety of individuals from minorities: In the CTA naming rights story, they interviewed Asians, Latinos, and people that fit the stereotypes of homosexuals. They chose these people to give off the impression that they are getting a lot of different people to speak about their story. While doing so, they are just reinforcing stereotypes of these minority groups.
Over all, the news show was quite upsetting to me and it was extremely sensationalistic and contained stories that are only present to incite a certain emotion.

Teaching Activity:
1. Begin by showing a few clips from the film "V For Vendetta".
Here's an example clip from the film!
2. Discuss how news media is made:
Where they get their stories- the government, companies with press kits, ETC.
The impact from advertisers on news stories.
3. Brainstorm a list of the types of news stories seen on the news (Crime news, politics, health, entertainment, sports, weather, etc).
4. Have the students guess how long each of these stories are usually allotted during a show.
5. Show the students a half-hour news show (skipped through advertisements).
6. Discuss with the students what they see:
Crime everywhere! (Scary World Fear), exaggerations, dramatic, etc.
7. Introduce the students to the term Sensationalism.
Homework Assignment!
8. Split up the class into 4 groups.
Two of the groups will create a 10 minute news show that is a representation of an extremely sensationalistic news source.
The students are required to make a script of the news stories, what the anchors say, etc. However, if they wish to actually film the show, it will be welcomed with extra credit.
The other two groups will create a 10 minute news show that is a representation of an equal, fair, objective as possible- news show.

The groups will present their shows at the next class. Have the class discuss what they see and the relationship between the two types- what is good/bad about each one.

1 comment:

  1. Our teaching ideas are kind of similar! Great minds think alike! I think that students learn the best through doing!! Plus, they get so bored otherwise.....

    I think you hit on the biggest technique of TV news: scare tactics and sensationalism. These kinds of stories are often not based on facts and, therefore, are opinionated. I thought it was hard to watch these shows before but I'm going to have a really hard to watch these TV news shows now.

    I'm also amazed at how little time is actually spent reporting the actual news on a news show! How do they get away with this? Answer: scare stories and sensationalism.

    Nice job!