Mar 242003
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

It’s show time!

The last several days supplied a stunning array of dazzling events, all polished and delivered with glib ambiance for the given occasion. Be it the airing of the 75th Academy Awards on Sunday, or the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, one thing is certain. The media feeding frenzy makes little distinction between war and entertainment.

Last week’s weather provided ample time to sit and watch TV, and so it was interesting to watch the alluring ways the broadcast media (along with their joint partners in print, since everything is a conglomerate) kept their audience informed of all earth shaking, nail-biting, ground-breaking events.

Watching the news as the “Blizzard of ’03” (thus titled by the media) raged outside, I witnessed the nasty little habit of the media making the unfortunate reporter at the bottom of the totem pole stand outside in the biting winds and cold, to report on the progress of the storm.

The poor journalist would be bundled as best they could against the elements, standing in the backyard of the newsroom (not even a place that might be of some news interest), for a total visual airtime of maybe 10 seconds. The rest of the time the station put up maps and other graphics illustrating aspects of the blizzard, while you got to hear the reporter, still shivering in the cold.

Why bother putting the reporter through that? I didn’t get any more information than I would if they had reported from the dry interior of a news studio. And I had plenty of visuals of the storm in my own backyard. But I guess it just wouldn’t have been as dramatic and hard-hitting if it had been done the sensible way.

When the local channels were not keeping me up to date on the elements, the other big story hit every single broadcast station in the spectrum: The invasion of allied forces into Iraq, otherwise known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

When the news first broke, the networks were – and still are – hanging onto every nose-hair flutter of any official who might have some information on the developing situation. Somebody heard noises, and there were reportedly lights seen over Baghdad. One network interrupted the regularly scheduled program because somebody important was walking toward a press-conference podium.

Mind you, this person didn’t actually stop and say anything. But that doesn’t concern this savvy media with the cat-like reflexes who will be damned if they are ever caught off guard. No sir! If news happens, or might just possibly happen, you’ll be the first to hear about it. Unconfirmed. Uninformed. Unbelievable.

But at least you know that most of what does get through is probably “official”, because these reporters don’t go to the trouble of investigating into anything beyond what is handed to them in the press release.

Each station ended up streaming CNN anyway, with only their station logo at the bottom of the screen indicating that there wasn’t an actual duplicating glitch in your TV programming. After the initial grappling for the unverified scraps for the sake of being the first to break the story, they started to get creative.

There’s Target Iraq, War with Iraq, Strike on Iraq, Attack on Iraq, and Conflict with Iraq. Every station creating it’s own wartime title for the event, complete with a shiny graphic design theme to display on the screen with whatever digital live feed that had been carefully screened by the military and approved for civilian consumption. I guess if you can’t actually report something new and different from the other guy, then you can at least try to make your packaging unique and flashy.

You know, razzle-dazzle them.

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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