The Orlando Sentinel's Hal Boedeker writes local television news used to be dismissed with the complaint, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
But a new trend is challenging the dominance of crime news: “We’re full of ourselves, and we can’t help it.”
Incessant bragging fills many newscasts, especially during such an important ratings period as February. The stations can’t, or won’t, contain themselves. They tell us when they were first at crime scenes. They boast about their choppers flying over scenes. They tell us when they have crews on the way.
What’s the big deal: Isn’t that their job? When did showing up become something to brag about?
The stations are more than happy to tell us what they’ve done for us lately. The variations include “we were the first to tell you,” “as we told you first at 5,” ”we have learned,” “only on our channel” and “exclusive.”
Exclusive is used so often that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. In this variation on the boy who cried wolf, the chest-thumping undermines the stations when they have true exclusives.
A few points to keep in mind: When stations tell you they have learned something, that often means they’ve read the press releases circulated to every media outlet in town. Big woo.
When they tell you they were the only station to cover a story, often they’re wrong.
When they say they’ve broken a story, maybe they haven’t, and instead they’ve co-opted original reporting. (Newspapers still do a lot of first-rate reporting, but they don’t have TV’s platform to boast — which, ultimately, may be a blessing. But we know our TV competitors are still reading us.)
The bragging is a turnoff, because it takes away from the news. The stations may think they’re helping themselves with the intense promotion, yet such preening has become white noise.
Pity the anchors who have to tell us, in a rote promotional exercise, that their station is the best spot for coverage. How can they be sure? Those anchors could be reading another story instead of doing promotional work.
In the news business, journalists are struggling to connect with audiences. So how wise is it to be a braggart?
In real life, don’t you run from people who are full of themselves and can’t help it?