Roving reporter on the scene

This morning I flipped on the TV at around 6:30AM to watch the news. There was a reporter bringing us a ‘live’ report from outside a courthouse. The poor women was standing outside in the dark and cold, all bundled up, in front of a building that was dark with no people in it. WHY??? What’s the point of being ‘on the scene’ if nothing is happening? Can’t she make her report from a nice warm studio with a hot cup of coffee? Will we be less interested?

I have a theory. I think it’s part of a secret initiation rite for new reporters. I’ll bet someone in her office send her a fake email telling her to go do her report from that location. When she gets back to the office, her boss says, ‘Nice initiative, going out on location like that. I’ll keep you in mind for the next remote spot’.

It’s the need of TV news to have a visual image for every story. If you can’t provide a tape or a live shot somewhere, it isn’t news. That lead to the idiocy of having a report on the “scene” long before or after any actual news happens.

Don’t get me started.

If the live trucks aren’t used every day, the bean counters take them away. And then where would TV stations be in case another terrorist attack occurs?

The prevailing media paradigm is that the audience wants to see reporters live on location. This idea came about because of poorly-conducted media focus groups.

By now, the powers that be should realize that TV audiences have done nothing but shrink ever since live reporters started appearing everywhere for every pointless story. Heck, at least 3/4 of the time live hits actually get in the way of the story. But until TV News Directors realize that an audience actually wants quality story-telling, you will continue to see pointless live hits.

Oh, I love that! Especially in the winter, when it’s 20 below with 50 below windchills and they’re advising that you can get frostbite in just minutes. They always put some sorry bastard outside in the whipping wind and snow so he can tell us that yes, it really is shitty outside.

The local TV stations here in the Philadelphia area were having “live reporting” wars a few years back. I remember one particularly bizarre (at least to me) episode where one of the newscasts was about a bridge whose construction was several years behind schedule. Yes, they not only featured a newscast “live!!!” in the middle of a half-built (and unused) bridge, they actually promoted that newscast several times earlier during the day!

I kept wondering “how do we know that this is really a live broadcast? And what would be the difference if it weren’t?”