When I was a kid, most parents wanted their children to grow up to be lawyers. Today, lawyers are considered scum-sucking lowlifes. When I was a kid, everyone loved the local TV news anchors. Today TV folks are considered scum-sucking lowlifes.
What went wrong? How did the lawyers and the journalists take such a nasty fall from the top of the food chain to the bottom? The plummeting of lawyers and journalistsâ popularity can be blamed on TV.
In the old days (like the early 1980s) lawyers did not advertise on television. Once they started to do so (by the mid-1980s) the public perception of them started heading south. For the most part you can blame the personal injury lawyers and their low budget commercials for getting the ball rolling. Then the O.J. trial came along. Thanks to that circus, lawyers will always be considered the scum of the earth.
But how did TV lead to journalists being hated by the public? Again you have to head back to the 1980s. You can blame all of this on just one TV show....A Current Affair. The sleazy tabloid show that looked just enough like a ãrealä news program that it blurred the lines. Then other shows followed; Hard Copy, and a few others whose names I canât remember.
The public loved these shows. They all were huge hits for a while (before everyone got sick of them and they died off). TV news executives, and more importantly, TV consultants, noticed how the viewers flocked to watch Maureen OâBoyle give the ãnewsä in sexy outfits with a sultry delivery. So the TV execs decided to change their real news shows to look more like the tabloids. The female anchors got younger and looked much more sexy on the air. The male anchors delivered every story like it was the end of the world. The reporters ambushed everyone on their interviews, even when it made no sense to do so. Hidden cameras were used at city council meetings and the producers put enough T&A in the shows to make Hugh Hefner blush.
Resurrecting The News
The Pew Research Center recently conducted a study demonstrating that viewers once again didnât think very highly of news people. After September 11, the media had the chance to redeem itself. Viewers were feeling good about the folks they watched on TV. Since everything was happening so fast on and around 9/11, the TV consultants did not have a chance to get their claws into the coverage. TV stations were just winging it and reporting the news. After a few months however, the consultants elbowed their way back into the station and low and behold...the publicâs perception of TV news dropped right back into the toilet.
Is there any way for TV news to regain the viewerâs faith? I think there is and I am going to give you the secret right now (see, reading this whole boring article might actually pay off).
Take a look at the last few presidents of the U.S. Every time their ratings in the polls started to drop, they did the same thing. I think if TV folks would follow this path, you might just find out it works. So get your staff together, itâs time to bomb the shit out of Iraq!
Scott Jones is a former photographer, reporter, assignment editor, producer, executive producer, and Top 20 news director. He runs www.ftvlive.com and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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