Anyone else remember C.E. “Pep” Cooney or Homer Lane (I probably just dated myself)? They were the station managers at Channel 12 and Channel 10 respectively. At the close of the 10 p.m. news, they would come on and make a 90-second or so commentary with the disclaimer “the views are not necessarily that of the station and its ownership.” You knew that what was coming was their opinion. Sometimes it had to do with something happening in the news, other times something they felt passionate about. Whatever it was, you knew it wasn’t news.
I posted the following on my Facebook page and it sparked a great conversation. So I thought I would share here as well.
More and more I am seeing TV news anchors/reporters adding their personal comments to stories they are reporting. I don't begrudge them their opinion but shouldn't they remain neutral when in their role? Thoughts?
So what do you think? Is it the job of the anchor and or reporter to add their views at the end of the story? I’m not talking about the chit-chat that happens, I’m referring to statements like “he is clearly mentally ill” or “she is definitely guilty and is showing no remorse.”
Here’s a bit of what is happening on my page:
Charlotte Risch Shaff Drives me crazy and I agree completely… Less chitchat, more news
MoniQue Shaldjian I have a client who has been on the news for some slightly controversial stuff. Because the anchors/reporters added their commentary, they do not want to buy their news clips. Cut it out peeps!
Ana Tackett Agreed. News reporting should remain neutral. When we purchase the clips we cut the commentary out. We are brand reputation managers, not social gossip promoters.
Debi Shackleford I agree with all of you.
Michael Herman For the most part, if you boiled down their combined wisdom and opinion into gasoline, you wouldn't have enough to run a piss ant's motorcycle around a cocktail napkin!
Andrea Vassallo For the most part, I do think they ought to remain neutral. However, I guess sometimes I watch and wonder how they deliver some stories with a straight face. Or, in light of a tragic moment, how they don't emote. It is a fine line to report news but also appear to be human, I suppose. Simply editorializing is not what I have in mind.
Jacqueline Wolfson Tancos Yes, I agree.
Aaron Blank The extra tv chatter is awkward -- mainly because the anchors themselves are not necessarily good ad libbers. I'm also noticing a lot more awkward reporting shots where the reporter in the field doesn't realize they are back on camera.
Ana Tackett It is not a news reporters job or anchors job to emote (this is not the Steve Harvey show). It is their job to report facts without any bias. Just like a judge in a courtroom should not ever show any emotion to either party. This does NOT mean they should not have a personality and they should not in feature news reporting have a little fun. I used to work in the Fox 10 newsroom in Detroit and can you imagine if I started commenting on every little action on the former sex scandal Mayor at the time -- Kwame Kilpatrick. I was very disgusted by him, but again, not my job to show any reaction...
Rich Dubek Yes! The decline of an impartial media began when cable outlets Fox News and MSNBC decided to take sides. Now local news have a minuscule share of viewers and this is just one reason why.
Susan Hart When I recently brought up the same point to a former national TV anchor, he was surprised as if such editorializing was a problem. Journalistic objectivity, especially in broadcast outlets, is long gone. This is why I read.
Lisa Ferguson Lochridge Yes. Plain and simple, yes.
Sienna Badura I think there is a place for both types of reporting. On traditional news programs, just give me the facts, I only want the story. If they host their own shows like Bill O'Reilly or Nancy Grace, it's different because I am tuning in for their opinion and buying into their brand.
Paul M Bowers Come on- this is not new. Remember Cronkite on Vietnam? Choked up reporters when Kennedy died or the Challenger disaster?
Geri Koeppel I think there's a big difference between showing you're human and being snide, catty and judgmental. I would never put Cronkite in the same category as most of the talking heads on TV. That said, you are correct: This is not new. Anchors have been doing this a long, long time. One of my j-school profs made it very clear to us from the get-go: Television is entertainment that happens to deliver news content; it is not necessarily news.
David Landis It's the sad result of news moving towards infotainment.
Paul M Bowers Well, let's put the blame where it belongs. We get what we watch. If more viewers were watching more neutral news, they'd produce more neutral material. Ever seen "Idiocracy" by Mike Judge? Everybody watches the show "OW! My Balls!" Prescient.
Pierre O'Rourke Totally agree.
Mary Davis Changed a long time ago. No more neutrality.
Paul M Bowers Colleen, that's my point. The 5.67% (ish) of Americans who want to watch neutral news don't represent a market worth pursuing by networks, large or small. They can make so much more money by running Ow! My Balls. Now- how about a REAL news show with Will McAvoy? I'd watch that!
Rich Dubek Lets not confuse neutrality with emotion. There is a difference. Deliberate slant or bias is much harder to find or prove than displaying feelings or emotion. I have been in this business a long time and have never witnessed intentionally bias, as hard as that night be to believe. But I see countless examples of needless emotion and feelings on display. The Yarnell fire a prime example.
Rich Dubek And HBO's show is brutally inaccurate and false.
Mary Davis Speaking of Newsroom...that was a weird season finale. Or was it a series finale? Say it ain't so!
Margie Albert Loving this discussion! Could someone describe a newscast they would make an appointment to watch daily? What traits, what content would it include? And is there one on the air now (local or national) you think meets those standards or comes close?
Mary Davis It's HBO and Aaron Sorkin...he writes about the world as we would like it to be. Of possibilities!
Laurie Rowan Munn Yes, they should keep it to themselves.
Paul M Bowers In all fairness, Sorkin is writing fiction, and has a POV nerds like us enjoy. That does not make him right, and cherry-picking easy problems with dramatic answers we like does not rule the world in real life.
Mary Davis Look what you started Abbie! All this discussion before 9 am...I need more coffee.
Eva Bowen Yes they should!!!
Rich Dubek I wish the Newsroom at least had likable characters!
Sherry Butler I agree. Report the news facts. Uphold the standards of the profession. I had a medical client whose story was well done by the reporter and then discredited by the editorializing of the anchor. Difficult to get him to do another interview.
Paul M Bowers But- the standards of the profession are directly linked to the numbers of viewers, not accuracy of reporting. Those days are long gone. The "best" news presenters are those that bring in the largest numbers.
Jackie Wright I like the personal touch... much better to watch someone with a personality and similar views to mine than watching a talking head. As long as they don't go Fox News style, I'm fine with it!
Abbie S. Fink Wow! Thanks for the great feedback. I can live with the 'personal touch' when it is warranted. My concern is when I hear "I think we need more gun control" or "clearly he was mentally ill" when discussing the most recent shooting. I don't think that it is their place to make those types of comments.
Jackie Wright Sadly, I think both of those are facts in our society today.
Marisa Vallbona Real journalism died around the same time blogging was born. I'm not saying that some bloggers are not real journalists, I'm just saying that it happened around the same time. It's all about the numbers, as Paul says.