Magazine shows cheapen journalism

12Mar08

Have you ever watched the BBC Breakfast News before work? Do not bother – you are more likely to see a story about Madonna than hard news.

Some would argue that this is what we need to start the day: soft pap and a sunrise-glow set to prepare us for the harsh realities of the world, with the young, pleasing looks of Susanna Reid and the avuncular charm of Bill Turnbull.

Ratings

Certainly, the BBC have to compete with ITV’s Good Morning Television and its magazine format for ratings, so it is understandable if producers want to attract new viewers.

And the internet is now supposedly an immediate source of daily news, encroaching onto all old-media territory, and for some, replaces the morning news staple with a slimmed-down alternative (even though we should all be dubious about any outlet’s claims to having the definitive news angle).

Broadband has made internet access easy

But what about the old audience? Surely as licence-payers, we are entitled to a range of programming which satisfies a need, even one that other channels are not catering for.

Surely, the BBC‘s daily evening programme, The One Show, hosted by Adrian Chiles, fills the magazine show niche, though at a different time.

Unfortunately, Breakfast News is filled with novelists and directors plugging their work, even though the BBC is not supposed to directly endorse products, and with factoids ranging from skateboarding chipmunks to scientists discovering the perfect sandwich.

Unpalatable at any time of day

There is certainly room for lightweight, press release-driven news stories in our televisual breakfast, but not to this extent. We need only look to BBC‘s general scheduling to see that they sometimes overdo a format – such as reality shows about auctions, gardening or interior design – all of which are cheap to make, because there is no need to employ actors.

There is a balance to be struck, and there comes a point when empty, trivia and celebrity-driven news diminishes journalism: on September 17 2007, the day after the private mercenaries from Blackwater had gunned-down innocent Iraqis in Baghdad, the event was ignored by the BBC, who instead ran the gamete of human interest stories.

No uglies, please!

As an aside, we should also consider the implications for aspiring young reporters: what chance do women have when they have to compete with attractive Natasha Kaplinsky clones, or men with charming middle-agers like Turnbull?

Good-looking Blue Peter presenters

You may also have noticed that this sexist older-man younger-woman formula has been reproduced across many formats, such as ITV’s Des and Mel, or The One Show, and that even the children’s show Blue Peter seems to have a no-uglies employment policy.

You are all going to look harder for your news I am afraid. Where exactly, I am not sure.

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5 Responses to “Magazine shows cheapen journalism”

  1. 1 nate8steele

    I completely agree, the One Show and BBC Breakfast News are the worst examples of journalism on television. They are fully of lazy opinion without insight on lightweight, ‘quirky’ issues.

    I watched an episode of the One Show where the actress Sue Johnston was sitting on the couch and was asked to give her opinion on a new loan scheme from the Citizen Advice Bureau and mating waterbirds of Britain. She patently had no clue about either subject and just replied with vaguely “that seems a good idea” or “that bit was funny wasn’t it”.

    It was clear that the show’s producers deemed that having a familiar face on our screens was more important than anyone who could have actually told us anything. The logic is clearly not to alienate any viewers by challenging them to consider ideas or opinions. Instead Johnston would reply in the same way an ordinary person would faced with a subject they knew nothing about.

    Similarly I presume the light nature of the Breakfast Show is because producers decided that in our rush to be ready in the morning we can’t take in anything challenging or that might disturb us before we leave the house. If that is the idea then why not do away with the presenters altogether and show continuous footage of kittens playing with balls of wool or dolphins frolicking in pools.

    The problem is that this magazine mentally seeps into ‘serious’ news programming. I remember watching a five news lunchtime bulletin a year or so ago which involved a fifteen minute interview with Katie Price to plug her latest product.

    On Newsnight on Tuesday, two young girls who aspired to be fashioned designers were putting questions to a representative of high street stores about child exploitation in making clothes. A very worthy subject was completely undermined by these ill-informed airheads who stumbled through sentences saying “like its all really bad and I just erm think should something should be done about it”. The case for the prosecution was easily batted away by the industry rep who clearly couldn’t believe her luck that she’d escaped a Paxman grilling.

    I think its time the mainstream television broadcasters showed a little more faith in the intelligence of its audience and stopped producing ‘factual’ programmes that have no ambition in telling us anything.

  2. 2 Middle Man

    I entirely agree. Bill Turnbull should be shot. You might enjoy this:

    http://caughtinthemiddleman.wordpress.com/2008/03/12/whatever-happened-to-the-news/

  3. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  4. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

    • 5 owen24

      Thanks for your praise. I appreciate it. I trained to be a journalist and, unfortunately, no national newspaper seemed to agree with you. Just goes to show, doesn’t it…


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