As anyone who regularly reads my blog knows I am obsessed with the fact that daily news on television and in the newspapers has not kept up with the times. I am amazed that Canadian broadcasters continue to produce national newscasts in the same style that they were produced 30, 40 or even 50 years ago. This despite the fact that the internet and all-news television has made the way viewers watch TV news change dramatically.
Newspapers have added style and shrunk their pages but they too continue to pump out their daily editions as if the internet had never been invented and they choose stories as if we, the consumers of news, have not seen any TV news or looked at the web.
I sometimes wonder what it will take for a few modern ideas to take hold. For the various media to assess what they do well and just as important the ways in which they can’t compete or even provide a valuable service. National newscasts, for example cannot possibly compete with the speed of all news television. All news on the other hand, does not have the time or the staff to look at stories in depth. I should not have to spell out the direction each should go in.
The internet pumps out volumes of information from all kinds of sources. The problem is an internet reader cannot always know or trust the sources of that information. I have a hard time watching the national newscasts because it seems like déjà vu. I have seen or heard the stories all day long. Newspapers are even slower. I sometimes feel like I have seen every story in my newspaper, it is yesterday’s news. I would love to see my newspapers filled with more opinion, more columnists from all across the political spectrum and because they have the staffs and the time, way more investigation and in depth stories.
This is all a long preamble to what I consider the most archaic and outdated source of news that exists today: the local news sportscast. Look, I am a huge sports fan. I love all the major sports and a few of the minor ones too. I am constantly surfing the web for the latest scores and sports news. I take part in hockey and baseball pools and have been known to make a bet on the NFL. So I am not coming at this as an artsy elitist or a news purist. I understand where the sportscast came from. In the “old” days there was no TSN, no the Score, no Rogers Sportsnet. The only opportunity most TV viewers had to see the scores and highlights was on their local newscast. In five to eight minutes the local sportscaster would let the audience know how their local teams performed, if there were any injuries and of course, show the best goals, touchdowns and home runs. If he, it was always a he until City-TV came along, had time, he would tell you whether the rival teams won or lost. In some cases local sports ran a crawl or put up a list of all the scores. They had a job to do and they did it well enough.
Can someone tell me the point of the local sportscast today? If I want to see highlights I have the choice of eight sports channels on television in Canada. I can go to the internet and find the scores to any game, whether finished or still playing. Heck I can even find out who is at bat as we speak or what yard line and which team has the ball in the football game. At the end of the day I can see an hour long sportscast that gives me all the scores, all the highlights, a few feature stories and even a panel discussion. If I want to just find out whether the Blue Jays or the Stampeders or the Canucks won or lost I can tune in The Score and look at the bottom of the screen. In a matter of minutes I will see every score in every game in every sport.
If you are a sports fan you have all kinds of ways and means of keeping up to date and truth be told, you find the local news sportscast inadequate at best and laughable at worst. If you are not a sports fan you probably could care less.
So why waste the time, money and the resources it takes to produce an inadequate and obsolete portion of the show? Wouldn’t local news be better served by hiring three or four more news reporters and dumping the three or four sports hosts and reporters? Wouldn’t the newscast love to have the camera operators assigned to sports available to news? I haven’t even mentioned the editing time that is currently gobbled up by sports. I don’t know anyone who watches their local newscast to see the sports news anymore yet we are still pouring all kinds of resources into the sportscast.
None of this means I want sports to disappear from local news. I would just like to see sports covered like all of the other news. When something important or interesting is going on, send out a journalist to cover the event. A good feature on the small crowds at the Blue Jays games would be of interest. The fight over a new stadium for the Tiger Cats in Hamilton is news. If the Leafs ever win the Stanley Cup the rash of heart attacks throughout Toronto and Canada will be a lead item. These stories can and should be handled by the journalists who cover their cities every day. There is no need to waste a long portion of the newscast on badly produced, incomplete and archaic segments that are available elsewhere to anyone who is really interested in the information.
So if anyone knows the answer to my queries I would love to hear from you. In the meantime I suspect the only answer is: ‘you know we have always done it this way and we haven’t really given it any thought.’ Isn’t that how most of the Canadian media works today?