By: Melinda Balandra
Talking heads are a thing of the past. Now, news networks fill their newscasts with high definition graphics, video, and music in order to keep viewers engaged. No longer do reporters deliver the news with the same straightforwardness and wisdom as the late Walter Cronkite. In today’s broadcast news industry, the name of the game is keeping as many eyes on the television as possible.
The video above is an NBC news update delivered by reporter Jessica Savitch in 1980. Compared to present day newscasts, the information is delivered with minimal distraction. Visual aids are offered in the background, but are very basic compared to the graphics featured in the newscast below from the year 2008.
Many critics argue that broadcast news has become more about entertaining viewers than informing them on important social issues. On average, most news stories are 30 seconds long, rarely exceeding a minute. Which begs the question, how thorough is news coverage that takes a few seconds to deliver? Obviously an hour long news program cannot be as in depth as a newspaper or magazine, but that does not excuse lowering journalistic standards in exchange for increased viewership.
Supporters of the quick and entertaining version of broadcast news argue that it allows them to catch up on the day’s events by giving a synopsis of a wide variety of news stories. For them, watching a news program is more about breadth than depth.
With the plethora of sources available for consumers to be informed on current events in local, regional, world, and entertainment news, broadcast news programs need to raise the bar in order to compete. Gone are the days where newpapers were the only competitors to newscasts. As a result, networks are trying to deliver the news with plenty of visual aids and less talking heads.