21st Century TV News: A Tragic Comedy

I’ve been reading a couple of blog posts lately (1, 2, 3 ) that say we are getting much better reporting on government, especially at the national level from The Daily Show & The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, than we do from NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN or FOX. This is sad. I like both of these shows, I rarely watch them on TV – but I do like to watch clips on the internet.

I really like the way that “investigative reporter” Samantha (Sam) Bee does her interview segments. She really weaves the perfect broadcast story methodology into hilarious send-ups of reporting. If you can’t laugh at yourself…

As the teachers of future reporters, we really need to stay current with the trends in our industry. Right now those trends are not very encouraging. Newspapers are profitable, but under pressure to cut costs and staff. The Mercury News (one of the country’s top mid-size papers) is cutting staff and this is just another in a series of cutbacks. TV news is being invaded by infotainment reporters like Katie Couric. Too many media outlets have been taken over by partisan politics of one flavor or another. And the industry keeps getting rocked by scandals: Jason Blair, Dan Rather, Stephen Glass, etc.

It is scary that some really good reporting is happening on comedy shows. They are pointing out the hypocrisy and finding the mistakes that the mainstream media is supposed to catch, but is too busy with Paris Hilton’s jail term, Angelina Jolie’s newest adoption, and who is the baby-daddy of the celebrity pregnancy of the week. If it is not that, then it is mudslinging on Olberman, Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. That is what passes for reporting today.

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