Viewers should demand more from TV viewers

Jim Lee

Well, here we are at the end of March. Another month has passed without the world going to Helena in a handcart — the good people of Montana must feel relieved.
Putting such silliness aside, I need to bring up this week’s topic: Mongolian ant farms. However, a brief spasm of research advises that this topic may also be considered a form of nonessential tomfoolery; Tom should have to deal with his own foolery because I have my own to overcome.
Instead, let’s take a gander at getting information from television. First, on network television anyway, only 22 minutes of each half-hour program is program at all; the rest is commercials.
I suppose we could call commercials information, but they certainly fail to qualify for unbiased information. I suspect those cable channels (received by cable or satellite, and not picking on any specific cable TV provider) have even more commercials. So, what about that information we get between the pitches from the ad agencies?
Although it is certainly not the only source of information, I’m zeroing in on television journalism. I exclude the Weather Channel because I made my jaundiced observations about that back on June 1. The news shows all come off pretty much the same. The biggest difference is the personality of each celebrity anchor. Choosing a channel for news is like commentary on Vanna White’s dress or a zit on Brad Pitt.
If the networks insist on personality news, get a for-real personality. How about replacing Tom Brokaw with Rodney Dangerfield or Peter Jennings with Don Rickles or Dan Rather with Cal Coolidge? Come on, is it going to be journalism or show business? Do we want Edward R. Murrow or Michael Jackson?
The cable/satellite channels seem to share nearly identical formats and generally carry the same lead, often covering the same stories throughout the broadcast, but they don’t have network stars. Instead, they use the “Stepford Anchors.” Just about all of them look like they’re trying to appear exactly alike.
They’re younger than the network anchors/stars. No facial hair on the males, straight hair slightly past the shoulders on the females.
Everybody is good looking. The men wear coats and ties, except the sports guys who wear suit coats or blazers without ties. The women wear something vaguely trying to look like sexy business attire.
Shouldn’t we demand more of TV news?
How about thoughtfully gathered news, some clearly labeled (and honest) editorial content (welcoming opposing views), and dedication to informing the public?
Uninformed citizens are citizens in name only. Forget the slick looks, the hype, the show business trappings. Save that stuff for those brainless sitcoms. Freedom of the press also means responsibility of the press.
I think news programs should be more like the excellent work of John Kirby and those fine young people on our own KENW-TV (channel three, or 51 without cable) right here in Portales.
Now, about that feature story on Mongolian ant farms . . .

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: