TV News Pet Peeves


The Milwaukee Journal's TV Critic Duane Dudek has a number of pet peeves when his watching the newscasts.

Dudek writes that an increasingly common one arose this week in coverage of the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., when local and national reporters repeatedly called the gunman "the shooter." I get it: He shot, therefore he is a shooter. But doesn't a word that can be used to describe a throw of the dice in Las Vegas or a basketball player in this context make a tragic crime scene sound like a video-game scenario? If he is the shooter, are the victims just targets?

I'm just getting started. Here are some other ear-of-the-beholder, news-I-can't-use peeves, suitable for petting.

Pump Patrol: Let me see if I understand this correctly — I should waste gas driving across town to save a few pennies when I buy more gas?

Traffic reports: Thanks, but if I'm watching, I'm already home.

Handoffs: Scripted back-and-forth transitions in which one studio anchor reads one sentence and another studio anchor reads the next sentence, and so on. This dramatic device gives the impression of a performance being given.

Using a newscast I'm watching to tease a story in an upcoming newscast I won't be watching. If there's time to promote it, there's time to report it.

"Breaking news" ad nauseam: If everything is breaking news, nothing is.

Body language: Anchors tripping the news fantastic with a fluttering of fingers, bobbing of heads, shrugging of shoulders and raised eyebrows. This newscast is brought to you by Busby Berkeley.

Music in news stories: Filmmakers use music to manipulate your emotions. Music serves a similar purpose in feature news stories and doesn't belong there. Too, music in stories, kinetic promos, bumpers and introductions: Just make anchors in the studio sound flat and dull, and other news less urgent by comparison.

Self-promotion when reporting: "(Station's call letters) was there when..."

Saying "reached out" instead of called, asked or tried to contact.

Using the word "cop," whose definition reads: See police officer. There is never a grammarian around when you need one.

Casual use of the word "history": Aaron Rodgers did not make history last week when he threw for 480 yards. The Civil War is history.