Put a fork in it already

The death of Pope John Paul II last weekend further evidenced to me the shriveling dynasty that was once broadcast network news. It has now come to the point where the interruption of regular programming by the networks — regardless of the event — is a net liability, a nuisance as annoying as pop-up ads online.

Anybody interested in the condition of the Pope last weekend was already tuned to the wall-to-wall coverage provided by the cable networks. This is their role in today’s media landscape, is it not? And they do it very well. The simple fact this weekend was that when the broadcast networks finally did decide to “go live,” all they did was repeat information that was old by comparison. Do they not know this? Moreover, as purveyors of entertainment programming, it’s now an unjustifiable blunder to interrupt for such events. People are not watching to have their programming interrupted by something they can find elsewhere. This is an undeniable truth in today’s media marketplace.

(But, Terry, you insufferable snob! What about the legions of those who don’t have or can’t get satellite or cable? Are they to be left out in the cold?

Get a life, dude! That’s exactly the kind of thinking that’s holding you back. If the government (the people) wants to insist that this shrinking group is a priority, then let them either provide the subsidy or a way for broadcasters to deliver two feeds, one for over-the-air, the second for satellite and cable.)

It’s sad, in a way, because I grew up in a world where network news divisions were the ONLY source of big time television news. When President Kennedy was assassinated, we all turned to Walter Cronkhite, because that’s the way it was. Being the only game in town, television had its cake and could eat it too. Not any more. And the sad part is that they still go through the motions as if things hadn’t changed.

My mother-in-law is in her late 60s and is a well-informed senior citizen. When ABC interrupted her soap operas last week with the Pope’s death watch, she was justifiably angry. She already knew what was going on, and if she had wanted more, well she knew where to go to get it. The old argument that we used to give viewers about interrupting their programming simply doesn’t wash anymore. Moreover, the risk of pissing off viewers is greater today than it ever was.

I get livid over such things as weather crawls at the bottom of the screen. Have we no respect for the intelligence of viewers anymore? Firstly, these things take up too much room. Secondly, we repeat them with such regularity that they might as well be permanently attached to the bottom third of the screen. Finally, they are automatically fed by National Weather Service bulletins, and the NWS isn’t known for being brief. “Flood warning Hardin County” is a lot more tolerable than “The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the following Tennessee County: Hardin.” Geez Louise.

Of course, I could be wrong…


  1. Agreed.

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