This picture represents one of my biggest frustrations with what passes for news today. Two local television stations had photographers and reporters at the City Council meeting I went to Tuesday night, but they were both gone after the first few minutes. They can’t actually cover the meeting, because they weren’t there for it.
The next time you see a “news report” about a meeting such as this, please understand this. It’s pretty much standard procedure. They show up and get a few bits of video from a few people before something starts, then they’ll stick around briefly to get some background footage of the actual meeting starting. Then they shoot a wrap-up with the reporter talking to the camera outside of the building (while the meeting is going on inside). Then they leave. They can’t tell you what happened at a meeting, because they aren’t there for the vast majority of it.
I understand that’s the way their business works, so I don’t hold it against the individuals. I’m sure this reporter and photographer are good at their jobs, but the way the business works creates an illusion that you’re getting information that you’re not getting.
It’s one of the many reasons why I say that “TV news” is an oxymoron.
If you’d like to know more about why the medium of television isn’t capable of giving you the kind of information you need to make informed decisions about the world, please read Neil Postman’s 1986 classic, “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” It’s short, easy-to-understand and lays out the reasons why the problem isn’t the people running the TV stations. It’s that the medium itself isn’t capable of what print was capable of.