Niagara Gazette

April 4, 2014

ADAMCZYK: Another thing wrong with TV

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It may be the latest in our harbingers of phony springs, but the temperature stayed more-or-less above the point of freezing this week, baseball season began and I saw my first returning bird (I think it was a robin), my first motorcycle (I think it was a Harley) and my first top-down convertible, a drop-top Volkswagen of some sort. Optimism, of the sort reserved for spring, abounds.

As others observed several days ago, cranes (the construction kind) can be observed dotting downtown Buffalo, and Erie County’s population rose, by about 900, for the first time in generations. Optimism flies in the air like a nymph, but only at street level. A good feeling about this place is spreading, but you can only appreciate it in person.

When journalism takes itself away from its remarkable capability to report a story about an aircraft missing for three weeks with no facts behind it, only speculation, it turns to – what? Optimism? No, just the old names.

Ralph Wilson. Jim Kelly. Ted Nolan. Donald Trump and something about maybe purchasing the Buffalo Bills. The next Tim Hortons to open.

I wish Mr. Kelly all the best on his way back to 100 percent. I wish journalism would get its collective head screwed on straight.

An old joke about the news business was that it is all the same stuff, happening to different people. I watch perhaps more television news than is good for me, but it has become as vapid as the programming it offers between newscasts at 6 and 10 or 11 (or later, if there is a basketball game on).

Channel 2 News insists I watch its real newscast on the Internet; what’s on the air is merely the prelude. Each channel’s news broadcast invites viewers to send in photos of what passes for news; thus do those who watch the news make the news, and they could go straight to Instagram or other websites and cut out the television stations entirely. Presenting the news was once the province of 2, 4 and 7; perhaps they are admitting the untrained news watcher with a camera can do it better.

The cast of the late, great Channel 7 Eyewitness News team, Irv, Rick and Tom, and they’ll tell you they had a great time, drew standing ovations at their roll down memory lane before a packed house last week at the Buffalo History Museum; if you’re old enough you’ll remember “Buffalo Blazebusters” and “pistol packing punks” and all that foolishness that was the opening shot in the process of dumbing down the news, making it entertainment and laughs. And yes, I watched it back then.

Station managers will tell you news broadcasts need to be moneymakers, which is why half the time allotted to news is actually advertisements, and those precious five minutes tacked on at 11:30 p.m., delaying Jimmy and Dave and Jimmy, are all advertisements. There was a time when 30 minutes of television gave me news I could use; these days, only the weather forecast is actual information of any value. The rest, like sports information, I either know already, or do not need.

Funny, 15 minutes with a newspaper, or 10 with the Internet, actually informs me.

Except perhaps for the Weather Channel, ESPN and several channels dedicated to financial affairs, no one in television seems willing to pump information of any value into me, and each of them has its limits. Even NBC’s mastodon “Today” show admits it has always offered news mixed with entertainment (and I go back to the days of Dave Garroway), but all I see there is fun! Showbiz fun! Fooling around fun! A great way to start the day!

If you think the newspaper business is somewhere between dramatically reinventing itself and crashing and burning, you likely learned it via television. The television business doesn’t tell you about its aging and declining audiences, desperate ratings maneuvers, taking its cues from movies and short-staffing its newsrooms.

News, to them, is a shameful waste of the power of television. Consider a hypothetical car crash in your neighborhood. Somewhere on the Internet, and later in a newspaper, you’ll learn the details. Watch television and you’ll see little more than dramatic video of the street sign at the intersection where the accident occurred.

A story about Congress? You’ll get a nice, stock view of the Capitol building. Any story about taxes or personal finance? Sit back and enjoy a brief tape of money being manufactured at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Even graphs are hard to come by on television; they probably laid off the graph guy.

This stuff used to be better, and it could be great. It’s not.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears weekly in the Record-Advertiser. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.