The Road to Recovery

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We can kick this thing… we can…..

As anyone who has ever attended an AA meeting will tell you, the road to recovery begins with honesty

Before you can get ‘better’ you have to be honest about the problem. You have to have the courage to stand up before the group and say, “my name is Lindsay and I am an alcoholic”. That is step 1.

I was reminded of this when I read a comment posted yesterday by ‘invited media’:

“something is seriously wrong ok…my wife made me sit down with her and watch the 10pm local news last night…something i hadn’t done in 6 months or so.

i couldn’t take it.

no wonder folks are leaving and not returning.”

The most recent numbers from CBS Evening News seem to bear this out.

Time to be honest.

Time to stand up in front of the group, raise our collective right hands and say: “I work in TV news and it sucks”.

Go ahead, say it.

In the privacy of your home, say what you already know is true.

What we put on the air sucks.

It sucks.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not anyone’s fault.

It’s a collective problem.

There is something fundamentally wrong here.

We spent massive amounts of money on making this stuff. We spend time. We devote our lives to it, literally. We have vast resources. The raw material is endlesslly fascinating – Darfur, Bush, Global Warming.. you name it. But somehow, what comes out on the other end, night after night… sucks.

It just sucks.

Is there a single person alive… Les Moonves, are you reading this… who looks at The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric each night and says “brilliant”?

Even Katie?

Is there anyone?

Is there anyone who looks at local news night after night as we drone on and on with endless pointless stories who says, “boy am I proud of the work I am putting out?”

Anyone at all?

We spend millions to make this stuff.. hundreds of millions.. and yet… and yet if we took any tv news show, burned it to a DVD and took it to Blockbuster, could we sell it for a single dollar each night? For a quarter? Would anyone pay anything for it, given the option?

We all know there is something fundamentally wrong in our business.

We are talented.

We work really hard.

We want to succeed.

And yet… and yet…

Something is not working here…

We may not know what the answer is…

But the first step to fixing it, is to look at it honestly, and to be honest with ourselves.

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“I have a problem…”

7 responses to “The Road to Recovery

  1. I think you are expressing the frustration we as visual journalists feel with the lack of quality and reality that we experience everyday.

    To be in this profession requires compassion inside each one of us. We don’t do this for the hell of it (At least I don’t). I have found a calling so to speak in telling stories others would likely shy away from – it creates a realness, shows us our humanity – that we have more in common than not – yet, viewers want the pablum of the masses to escape the cruelty of humanity. There are those vignettes of positive things people are doing, but for the most part – the world is messed up.

    With genuine motives, you go out and tell a story with your skills, your heart, your minds eye – and then some editor comes along and craps on your work saying it’s too serious (been there – done that). Needless to say, it’s enough to pull the plug on any desire to continue in this profession normally – unless you dig your heels in and say I’m not budging. Sometimes you have to take a stand and fight for what you believe is worthwhile in your story.

    I took an extended sabbatical from shooting for several years due to burn out and being tired of fluff assignments. Now the new breed of VJ’s has the opportunity to keep it real and I for one plan on doing that very thing.

  2. One need only ask a person born in another country about our news. We have such a narrow view of the world that we have let ourselves run down this road until we have become unimportant to our viewers.

  3. Don – excellent point you raise. My girlfriend grew up in North Africa and Paris and she has exposed me to a whole new perspective of news as it is seen in Europe. I have to admit I do watch Keith Olberman on MSNBC for his insightful commentary on the days events. But other than that, I don’t watch any network news. I am partial to the BBC’s video feeds and find they present more than the corporate news media could ever think of doing. That narrow view is in my opinion perpetrated by a lot of neo-conservatives who dictate policy these days due to the current administrations fear mongering tactics.

  4. Quick notes:

    Cliff, your liberal bias is evident, and it has nothing to do with the state of local and network news. The Neo Cons are not controlling the newsrooms. I could argue that the content is liberal…yet that is not the point of this discussion, is it?

    Whether liberal, conservative, left, right or wrong, the public should be served by un biased and balanced reports of facts. This goes back to an earlier post I made here…about “you must define journalism.” One person’s viewpoint…is just that…one person’f view point. People can find biased reports…but what is needed is a place where a balanced, fair approach to news is presented.

    So, you lost me on your post. If you can connect the dots…from the original post in this thread, to neo cons, I might understand you. But there is no connection.

    As to the orignal post… Local newscasts and the network news have their faults and their benefits. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Generalizations are dangerous.

    Yet, I agree.

    I work in news, and I rarely sit down to watch Katie…even though I work for CBS. There, I said it. I am an alcoholic…rather…I think news sucks. Perhaps I won’t go that far, but the reality is this: There is new competition, and viewers will find what they are looking for. Trust will draw viewers.

    I get my information from reading the newspaper each day, watching CNN, FOX and MSNBC networks (for national). I listen to the radio. I read news magazines. I do not get much daily news information from the internet. I do watch Evening Network Newscasts when I happen to be sitting in front of the TV at the time. It does provide information.

    But the thing to remember…and the thing television news producers and executives do not realize (enough)…is that the best thing they can provide is high quality Video journalism. Newspapers are expanding to video. Radio is too. Magazines too. Yet television stations already have the talent. But they are not taking full advantage of the VIDEO journalism potential. Will they? They have the talent, and the crews to tell visual stories…yet too often they think face time by anchors and reporters will keep viewers…that graphics, standups, press releases, rehash of newspaper stories, controlled media events, or tie in to network entertainment shows, etc… They think these things will keep viewers. Perhaps they will. But I think there is a future in quality video journalism.

    I like interesting visual stories.

    I also enjoyed the picture of Lindsey Lohan. That’s why I kept reading this post. Also, my father was an alcoholic – a drunk for many years. Pe0ple do need to see the truth, not only as journalists, but also in their own lives, and professions.

  5. Journalism will never be unbiased. There is ALWAYS an agenda based upon the reporters POV. One can banter on ad infinitum about the noble objectivity of journalism only presenting the facts – but selective disclosure is the same as reporting the facts – it’s just the facts regarding ones POV.

    Regarding connecting the dots – oh please – you can’t tell me that a conservative publisher, GM or ND hasn’t at one time or another stifled initiative due to the nature of a topic as it conflicts with the agenda of said entity. That is my experience in print publication on more than one occasion – and I will expound on this issue further down.

    My political views are just that – my POV. They are neither right nor wrong – they just are. What I have personally seen and experienced regarding HOW news is reported since Bush was elected is clearly evident that it has been filtered to not make the President look bad. Prove to me otherwise – I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have never seen reporting so utterly skewed since I became a photojournalist in the mid 80’s.

    It’s only now, with Bush’s popularity sitting below 30%, that news agencies in this country have reported the utter incompetence of this administation who clearly has intentions of taking away our freedoms as stated in the constitution (The Patriot Act). Bill Moyers documentary “Buying The War” (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/watch.html) is a clear case example of exposing just how the media was duped and manipulated. Even big names confessed to this very issue. (“The Patriotism Police” as quoted by Walter Issacson, former Chairman and CEO of CNN with the accusations of being unAmerican and unpatriotic to report opposing views of the administration.)

    But to get back on track – I don’t see the major networks going to a realm of quality video journalism until they are literally painted into a corner – they’re running scared trying to figure out how to stop the oncoming wave of the new breed of VJ’s who are seriously concerned with the quality of the content they create.

    That’s my $0.02 worth

  6. Cliff,

    I agree that publishers and GMs do influence coverage. Absolutely. Great point. Yet it cannot be argued that only conservatives do this. Right? I have seen instances of liberal choices in news story selection.

    As for the media trying not to make Bush look bad, I disagree. There has been a lot of criticism of Bush and policies. I did see Moyer’s documentary. It was very interesting. Certainly, the major press outlets did not delve into the WMD facts and claims. But the same was prooven for the major players in Washington D.C. at the time, including major Democrats such as Senator Clinton. It was not only the media. It was a tough lesson learned by many. Perhaps even Mr. Bush was deceived by the intellegence presented to him.

    As for unbiased journalism. The goal of the journalist should be an unbiased, fair, accurate presentation of facts. Personal stories can help present facts. But a story presented as “journalism” that does not serve the public, but rather serves one person’s goal, is not journalism. It is advocacy.

    Again, as I stated, “journalism” needs to be defined. Otherwise the public suffers. I define journalism as information intended to serve the public by giving them information that is accurate and fair. Certainly, there is no one perfect solution. Because each story is different. But there are ethics codes. If you do not abide by any ethics, then why trust anything you have to say?

    In otherwords, if you present your one sided, biased view as fact…then that is no different than a neocon’s one sided view as fact. The purpose of journalism is to present both sides…as factually accurate as possible…without presenting your own bias.

    If you do not subscribe to journalism with a capitol “J” than simply put, I will never rely on you for information. Journalism is very important. And this new realm of internet availablility, citizen journalism, niche journalism, etc…. really stressed the need for the capital “J” approach. I think those outlets who do their best to provide fair, balanced, accurate coverage of both sides of any issue…will serve the public the best. And serving the public is the most imporant thing journalism can do. Not make money. Not advocate one side. But to serve the public with all sides.

    Networks and all “contenders” in the journalism world…will need to provide high quality – in every aspect; reporting, investigating; live presence; analysis; and video journalism. Right now, most television news outlets lack in their committment to quality video journalism.

  7. Quick clarification/qualification:

    Not every “feature” story needs to present two sides. “Feature” stories are often about people, and their personal story. Video journalism is a great way to tell these types of stories, as long as it is presented as being a feature story.

    Issue stories, on the other hand, should cover both sides of the issue so the public can be fully informed.

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