Why I hate local TV news

I don’t watch TV news very often. I don’t really need to know who shot whom today or that valets sometimes steal loose change from your car (gasp!). Every once in a while, though, I tune in just to see what I’m missing. Then I tune right back out.

One of the things I hate most about local news is the fake live shot: the reporter is standing where something happened earlier that day. You can’t see anything because a) it’s dark at 11 p.m. and b) whatever happened is long over.

I tuned in to WUSA-9’s* 11 p.m. newscast last night to the lead story about a “brutal attack” on a guard at a prison in Stafford, Va. There was video of the uprising and the 11 p.m. live standup in front of the prison. About 2 minutes into the story the reporter explained that the prison guard was “back at work the next day.”

Which got me wondering: when did this hot story actually happen? Last Thursday. Five days before the newscast it led. The story lasted nearly three minutes, an eternity in TV time. The live shot, the lead position and the length of the story all implied urgency and newsworthiness.

Another thing I despise about TV news is that stories are sensationalized to make them seem a lot more important than they really are. In the first sentence of the standup, the reporter says that the beating “almost cost a corrections officer here his life.” What actually happened to the guard? Five stitches and “a few cuts and bruises.” (Remember, he was back at work the next day.)

The only reason this story aired at all was they had video.

* Full disclosure: I watched WUSA-9 because their newscast is in HD and you can see how they cake on the makeup. The other stations are equally bad, but don’t look as sharp on my TV.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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