Friday, March 30, 2007

Media roast heats up

What makes a television personality popular? I've heard that people watch television reporters who represent their ideal selves: smart, attractive, confident, witty and well-mannered. Think about your favorite news reporter. That person probably has a quality you'd steal in a second, whether it be batting eyelashes, an excellent sense of style or razor-sharp wit.

But for a growing number of viewers, the jig is up.

Cynics have begun to catch on to an industry secret: Many reporters aren't as special as they seem. They have "duh" moments, get acne and even feel insecure. As mainstream TV news does its best with the powers of editing, concealer and acting classes, comedians are proving that an attempt to appear impeccable is, well, laughable.

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are leading a roast of the TV news media. The newest member of the satire club is the Onion News Network, a Web offshoot of the Onion. The prince of print news parody launched the Web site on Tuesday, according to the CJR Daily (the Columbia Journalism Review's blog site).

The ONN tries to differentiate itself from its satirical brethren. It mocks the Secretary of State's recent peace-making trips with a fake story about Condoleeza Rice's perilous visit to the "Orient." Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would have lampooned the U.S. Secretary of State's real peace mission to the Middle East. The comedians usually poke fun at the news of the day -- with tongue-in-cheek and ocassionally crass delivery, while ONN makes stories up but its reporters execute the silly scripts with the polish of CNN's Headline News gang. No ums, no mischievious smiles, no overly dramatic head snaps to camera two (like on the Colbert Report).

As more funny people take jabs at the news, the only way for the industry to maintain its credibility is to try to loosen up a bit. It needs to stop taking itself so seriously. People don't want a grand, showy performance -- they want professionals who deliver honest stories. The caked-on makeup, the cheesy set and the unnatural banter are unnecessary -- even detrimental. People are too smart and cynical to believe journalists are perfect -- and they'll laugh at anyone who tries to change they're mind.

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At Saturday, March 31, 2007, Blogger LL said...

MM makes a very good point. The media is being laughed at today more so than ever before. Simply put, there is an extreme lack of respect and trust for the news media in today's society and what we, as journalists, can do about this is up in the air. It is an awful feeling to think that people, who don't know you personally, don't trust you or don't even like you. The profession that was once praised for giving those without a voice a place to tell their story and to provide information to a society who might not otherwise receive it, has become tainted by corporate capitalism and a stereotype of subjective reporters that care more about their makeup than the content of their information. It is a predicament that I find myself battling because the latter definition of journalism described above is something I want no part in. Only the future will tell where the news media will go, and it is up to us as rising journalists to not cave in to the mainstream but to stay real, honest, and loyal news gatherers, reporters and people.

At Saturday, March 31, 2007, Blogger GN said...

See, it's just so much easier and faster to put on makeup and wear a suit that will make you look credible than to spend time learning and understanding the issues you are reporting on.
I'm being cynical of course.

At Saturday, March 31, 2007, Blogger L.C. said...

If the media is serving as watchdog for the government, then it just seems to me like these fake news outlets are serving as a watchdog for the media. People these days are so sceptical of reporting that I think they take comfort in knowing there are Jon Stewarts out there who cutting the news media down to size.

Also, I think viewers are so much smarter than the average television show thinks they are. What's so great about The Daily Show is that it assumes a certain sensibility of its audience that most other shows and reporters don't. I think that is such a big part of the attraction.


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