My bride tells me part of my problem is that I just don’t like change. We discussed that point a bit, and I tried to put a finer point on it by saying I don’t like NEEDLESS change. I’ll admit my Windows 7 runs a lot quicker and slicker than Windows 98, and while I may grouse a bit about such changes, they seem to make things better. Needless change, to me, is illustrated nicely by the changes CNN has made to its early morning news program.
As I groused about it to my bride again this morning, she pointed out that now both of us are outside the ironclad 25-54 age demographic, so what we think doesn’t even matter to network TV programmers. She also pointed out that neither of us is really a “broadcaster” any more (even though my day-job reporting is heard on radio stations around the state and Midwest), so we don’t even know what “THE CONSULTANTS” are thinking these days.
My morning routine involves letting the dogs out, herding them back in, getting a cup of coffee, and planting my butt in front of the TV to find out what heinous things have happened overnight. For the past three years, I’ve watched CNN from 6 to 6:30 to get a fix on what’s going on. But a few weeks ago, they took what (to me) was a perfectly good morning national news show and wrecked it.
They brought in the children.
Instead of having adults like Carol Costello, Christine Romans, and Ali Velshi give an excellent summary of the news, now, they have Soledad O’Brein sitting around a table with a number of other children and they “talk about the news” rather than report it. They start with what they consider the “lead” story (spelled “lede” in the print news biz, I’m told) and just sit around and talk about it. This morning it was the mostly-sunken cruise ship. Some boy who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old was trying to make a fine point about maritime law. A cynical 62-year-old bastard like me would rather hear about maritime law from some grizzled old sea salt who at least looked like he might have set foot on a ship or two.
This new young group of CNN morning newsies sat around and talked about this ONE story from 6 AM until 6:15 AM, when, in frustration, I changed the channel. In 15 minutes, these children talked about ONE story.
Years ago, when I was consulting radio news operations across the fruited plain, my mantra was “story count equals credibility”. In other words, years and years of duplicated research showed that people perceived the station that ran the MOST news stories in any given unit of time (5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes – which in broadcast parlance is referred to as a “quarter-hour”) was perceived as being the most credible news organization. It was OK to go in depth on a story, but only AFTER you’d given the listener/viewer a big blast of assorted other news items.
Granted, radio and television are far different critters, particularly in the morning, where radio listening is done half at home and half in the car on the way to work. TV is still essentially a 100% “in-home” critter in the morning. I have a good friend who is considered the top news/talk radio consultant in the nation, and he still tells me that one of the biggest challenges is helping the on-air talent to understand clearly the implications of the fact that the average listener is only there for about 18 minutes in the morning. They’re busy, they’re in and out, and they want a concise summary of news and weather frequently.
Maybe it’s the old radio news programming consultant part of me that makes this change in CNN’s morning programming so distasteful to me. I expect to be told about at least a dozen stories if I dedicate 15 minutes to watching. There’s a hell of a lot more going on in the world on any given day, like today, than a boat wreck that happened days ago. And while I confess complete ignorance about what TV News consultants are thinking about, saying, and preaching these days, I do NOT want to see a bunch of kids talking about the same story for 15 minutes. If I want to hear a 15-minute rant about a single topic, there are plenty of other TV (and, God knows, radio) stations which can provide that.
Maybe I am just too old, my opinion doesn’t count, and the advertising department doesn’t want to sell ads about products I might find useful. And, this morning, I was secretly hoping that maybe CNN might make mention of the MILLION signatures on the Walker recall petition in Wisconsin.
But, to the news children who run things today, 15 minutes of kids sitting around talking about a boat that half-sank several days ago is apparently more important than giving viewers a representative sample of current events from around the nation and the world.