Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Will the Evening News Become TMZ?

That's the question posed by Wayne Friedman in a post on the TV Watch blog, and the title of a talk that TMZ creator Harvey Levin at the National Press Club..  Also a very scary proposition for old-line journalists.
So what's behind the headline? For one thing, research showing a decline in traditional original reporting in favor of chatter, talk and debate about news, "horse race" reporting in politics, and a wide range of soft news stories - all backed by theories predicting that competition pushes news coverage to stories that come fast and cheap, that competition pushes aspects that can be differentiated, and continued audience demand for stories with drama, conflict, or voyeuristic glimpses of the rich and famous (or even the nearly rich and famous).
So maybe the question is not so absurd, in an era where a NY Times report lists TMZ/ as of of the ten most influential news organizations (ahead of the LA Times, ABC, CBS, Fox, and Time magazine), where the head of CBS News bemoans the lack of real investigative news (just what is 60 Minutes up to these days?), and advertisers flock to the viewers of entertainment news who find its form of storytelling more engaging, and perhaps more powerful, than straight news reporting..
Can journalism and news organizations survive, and even prosper, by becoming TMZ? 
Programs and organizations might, but I think that the bright line not to be crossed for news and journalism is credibility. A program or organization can certainly be commercially successful with a focus on entertainment, gossip, and wild exaggeration (just take TMZ, the cable channel E, and the National Enquirer for example).  But the label of news and the profession of journalism needs to maintain certain standards for people to view it as credible, reliable, and news.  The news media have enough trouble remaining credible and respectable today, without embracing the TMZ philosophy.and throwing away whatever trust audiences have in news organizations.

Source - Will the Evening News Become TMZ?  TV Watch

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