How did the national news broadcasts turn into such crap?

Other than PBS News Hour, that is. I like Lester’s delivery, but after 15 minutes of barely scratching important stories, the rest of the broadcast is all visual clickbait. “Big crash in Wisconsin! Wait till you see what happened next!” Wisconsin? That’s a local story at best, so who the fuck cares? Then we have that guy (Yamas?) who sits with his hands on the desk, arms akimbo, like he’s going to launch himself over the thing at any moment. And NBC really should stop trotting out that fucking Al Roker with his blue glasses to give us his 30 second 40 MILLION PEOPLE IN HARM’S WAY! bullshit.

And the outrage. Oh my, the outrage I’m supposed to feel at every one-sided story about someone who was roughed up by a cop.

Oh yay! Another soldier comes home and surprises his kid in school. Yawn.

I’m done with it. I don’t remember when this crap started. I guess it’s gradually been getting worse as the networks have had to compete for viewership from an audience with an ever-decreasing attention span.

Yep. The network evening news shows have been losing viewers for decades now because younger viewers simply don’t want to sit in front of their TV and watch 30 minutes of continuous news. They’ve tried many different ways of attracting new viewers and/or hanging on to their regular viewers. They’ve gone serious, gone light, done fewer but more in-depth stories, more but shorter stories, changed anchors, changed producers, changed sets, and changed presentations. None of it has resulted in a permanent stanch of their loss of viewers.

NBC is giving you half a show of decent if shallow news, one-third of clickbait, and something to make you feel better at the end. Be thankful those ratios are the way they are.

What happened? Walter Cronkite retired and Edward R Murrow died.

Consolidation of media for one. Even our local news is basically the same stories just in different order. There is little investigative journalism for one. People are less reliant and politicians are more savvy, any attempt to show any company or politician in a bad light can bring reprisals from a media blackout to advertising ban.

I’m 55 and it’s been utter shit for my entire adult life. The song Dirty Laundry came out in 1982. Why does this strike you as something new?

Watergate came to a head in 1974. At that time, network news seemed (to me) to be driven by the need to inform the public first, and profits second. I think this changed by the early 80’s, I’m not sure why. I want to think it had something to do with Reagan and all the BS that he dripped down the willing gullet of the American people, but that’s probably just prejudice on my part.

Anyway, blame the public, they get what they want. When they wanted information, that’s what they got. Now they’re happy with fluff, because real life is hard, and the world is ugly.

I think a big problem is the 24 hour news cycle. Once you spend a few minutes on the important stuff (whatever that may mean to you), you have to fill in with fluff until something else happens.

Someone (Trevor Noah, maybe) was just talking about this. The example he used was from a week or two ago. There was an announcement that Mueller would be doing a press conference in an hour and every news station spent the next hour speculating on what it was going to be. That is, they filled 60+ minutes guessing at what he would be discussing when they could have been talking about other things since whatever he would be discussing was going to be discussed in an hour and they could have just waited and presented it then.

The problem, as I see it, is that if they went on to other things, people are going to flip to another station where the hosts are talking about it, even if they’re just guessing. Because of that, everyone has to talk about it.

It’s similar to elections, especially the final few hours. More people are going to watch the news stations that are sitting there guessing who’s going to win than the one that says ‘we’ll let you know as soon as we know, in the mean time, here’s some local/important/other news’.

TLDR: 24 hour news cycle
Also, here’s the Trevor Noah bit, skip to about a minute in.

To a certain extent, ‘blame the public’ tends to be the right answer. So long as people watch that station, buy that product, do that thing, businesses will continue to provide it. Why wouldn’t they, it would be silly not to.

I say ‘to a certain extent’ because sometimes you end up in a vicious cycle where the public consumes a certain product/content so more and more of it is produced, but the only reason they consume so much of it is because it’s the only option.
It’s what happens when big businesses decide what they think the average consumer wants.

Have never been really happy with it, but long ago stopped watching it completely. The anecdote will tell when this was.

Peter Jennings lead off the ABC Nightly News with a story about a poll that said the overwhelming majority of Americans thought the Clinton-Lewinsky thing was no big deal and wished people would leave it alone. He then spent the next 20 minutes on the Clinton-Lewinsky thing.

That … was … it.

Had already given up on the local “news” before that. Zero actual news content most of the time. Lots of crash, fires, etc. The worst are the “live on the scene” reports from where an accident happened … 8 hours ago or even the previous day. There’s nothing going on there now at all! So why is there is live field report???

Until then the networks and local stations offered news at a loss as a public service. The FCC stopped enforcing strict public service standards on licensees and the networks and station owners realized news (and children’s programming) could become a huge profit center.

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Have never been really happy with it, but long ago stopped watching it completely. The anecdote will tell when this was.

Peter Jennings lead off the ABC Nightly News with a story about a poll that said the overwhelming majority of Americans thought the Clinton-Lewinsky thing was no big deal and wished people would leave it alone. He then spent the next 20 minutes on the Clinton-Lewinsky thing.

That … was … it.


I think it’s more like X% of Americans are just saying they with the news would stop reporting on it. But as i mentioned upthread. If ABC decides not to report on, or limit reports on, a given topic, but NBC covers it like an imminent threat, people are going to watch NBC.
Look at how many people don’t care about celebrity gossip, but are glued to TMZ or say things like 'I don’t care/don’t talk about politics, but did you hear about [politician doing something I don’t agree with] yesterday"

That, I agree with. The majority of the time, I can’t even see a good reason for it.

A while back one of the news stations would send a crew out on the road, to film, from inside the van, the horrible driving conditions, usually during the middle of a really bad snowstorm. So, here’s the news crew doing their usual ‘it’s really bad out, if you don’t have to leave the house, please don’t’, while they put one more vehicle on the road. And not just any vehicle, one that’s going to turn heads due to it being a news van with someone we recognize sitting in it.

Reporting on minor accidents never made sense either. Someone upthread made a comment about an accident in Wisconsin. Yeah, that one was really, really bad, but why does someone a thousand miles away care, or even need to know? I’ve seen that here as well. I’m in Milwaukee, I’m not all that interested in a headline that reads “two injured in wrong way driver accident during rush hour in St Louis”. I don’t know who pays whom when news is picked up from ‘the wire’, but I assume that has something to do with it. Perhaps news stations put everything out there in hopes that a few other stations will pick it up and they’ll have a little extra income.

And don’t forget that by the time evening news comes on, we already know about all the significant and many non-significant events of the day. Why spend 30 minutes hearing about the notification that came in at 11AM that morning?

In my opinion, the only hope for news is in-depth investigative reporting. The problem there is that there isn’t enough dirt available to go around. The NY Times does pretty well though. They report all the news they can and fill the rest of the paper up with articles about places and people unfamiliar to their readers. But that is expensive, usually requiring a reporter to travel. Yes, actually get up out of their seat and move away from Google. I know, it’s crazy, but they make it work.

The 1976 movie “Network” explains this pretty well.

Agree with the comments so far. Especially regarding the 24-hour news cycle, and the formulaic nature of all the national news (except PBS News hour, as mentioned in the OP).

The Weather Channel is responsible for weather hysteria, with their naming of winter storms, headlines about millions of people being in “danger” from a rain storm, and placing their anchors outside in hurricanes. All total unnecessary BS meant to drum-up viewers or clicks. And, as already mentioned, once one network ups the game, everyone else has to respond - that is why Al Roker parrots stupid headlines about people in “danger” and “at risk” of getting rained on. It’s just weather. When a hurricane approaches, or there is a major flood, that’s national news, but a cold front sweeping thru the midwest and it being hot in Phoenix is not.

Everything is “breaking news.” Used to be, breaking news was those few occasions that a news announcement “broke into” your “regularly scheduled programming.” Assassinations, shuttle explosions, moon landings, etc. Now EVERYTHING is “breaking.”

This just in! Breaking!..Breaking!..Breaking!..Breaking!.. (goes the crawl at the bottom of the screen): “Warren to speak at Podunk, KY Grange Hall at noon!”

Yeah, that was my first reaction as well. But the 24-hour news cycle really drove the stake through the heart of proper news reporting. When all the big stories have already been reported on and dissected during the day, the news shows have to fill with entertainment and fluff instead.

I find it ironic that comedians have ended up becoming the most trusted news sources. Last Week Tonight is pretty much the best source for substantive analysis of current issues at the moment, if you don’t mind Oliver’s bizarre and obscene asides.

I remember the days when there were three TV channels. The news had fifteen minutes of local news and fifteen minutes of national news – they included sports and weather – and on a slow news day they put in a fluff human interest story when there just wasn’t much of anything important or interesting going on.

I think the amount of news remains about the same as it was in those days – the rest is junk which would be best avoided.

The way they just chase a small one day story and then beat it into the ground over a period of a week trying to cover ever single related incident no matter how minuscule just kills me.
A few tourists die in the Dominican so they immediately send a reporter to be stationed there and report any time an American tourist gets so much as a belly ache after dinner.

And now apparently it’s become newsworthy to run stories about comments people make about other news stories.
“Breaking news! Guess what Whoopie said on The View about yesterday’s news!”

It’s been years since I’ve watched any of these news shows, local or national. What I remember driving me crazy, on top of this…

… is that every goddamn piece had the part where the anchor or reporter says “we now take you to some random idiot we found on the street, who is going to say something totally obvious, adding nothing to this story.”

Cut this bullshit out, and fit twice as many stories into the newscast! When I realized it was actually making me angry, I decided it was time to stop watching.

Perhaps my frustration level has dropped. Watching the news each night just became habit, but more and more of late it’s become an irritation, and I’ve been turning it off after fifteen minutes. But even the fifteen minutes is just headlines with little or no depth, interspersed with drug ads.

Our local NBC affiliate does a pretty good job with local news and cover quite a bit of ground over the hour and a half they broadcast.

The best is the PBS News Hour, which I wish would air about two hours earlier.