News as Entertainment

If you want an idea of how network news has completely transformed over the past ten years from the sober conveyance  of information to a place for larks and comedy, look no further than the ad that came wrapped around the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, April 22.

The ad displays all eight members of the KTLA 5 Morning News team ( four women and four men) posing with their arms outstretched and apparently singing  words  ‘Find Me A Comic.’ appear.   Here are the lines that then follow:

The KTLA 5 Morning  News, in association with the John Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal City Walk, is searching for the next great Stand- Up Comedian.  Go To KTLA .com/Comic for details.  Upload your best  two minute routine and you could be on your way to a booking in Los Angeles or Las Vegas.”

It concludes with the words  “KTLA5 Morning News –   News, Weather and OUTRAGEOUS FUN!”  (my emphasis added) .

If you think that sinks to a new level of imbecility, then you might want to flip over the news sheet.  For there you can read what looks like a page ripped from a ninth grade  year book with all eight members of the team individually profiled.  One by one they have jotted down their biographical details, in order  to give you important insight  into their sparkling personalities:

Here’s Michaela Periera:

Greatest Achievement: Not losing my mind in this town or in this business. Biggest Dislike:  Judgment and negativity; Favorite Journey: Home

Jessica Holmes goes one better:

Greatest Love: Hmmm… still waiting…on that answer; Greatest extravagance: food…I would spend a paycheck on a good meal; Greatest Fear: Being stuck in an elevator. Swarm of bees.”

And we surely are better off for gleaning this information from Sam Rubin:

“Favorite Journey:  Amalfi Coast, Italy; My Most Treasured Possession: My Kindle;  Most Marked Characteristic: Its my own hair.”

Well, its a certainly a relief Sam, to know that you have your own hair.

This sophomoric posturing wouldn’t be so offensive if KTLA5  didn’t command a sizable morning audience that relies upon its newscasters for reliable information.  According to Nielsen, the station  has the second largest market share for morning news  in Southern California and  ranks  as 12th in the nation.

There is no great revelation in declaring that the division between news and entertainment has disappeared.   Turn on almost any news program from MSNBC to Fox News and it becomes clear:  newscasters are presented as celebrities in their own right whose images are carefully groomed;  the news is tailored to capture sensation, often at the expense of veracity and proportion;  and aimless banter between newscasters is given almost as much emphasis as the news itself.

So on any given day, we  can view newscasters deliver, in mordant tones, news of the death of hundreds in an earthquake or flood, only to follow it a few minutes later with some lighthearted banter about home cooking or the hosts’ latest travel plans.

The repugnant narcissism of the whole enterprise, should make almost anyone with a sense of propriety and reverence for traditional news service to turn off their televisions and never return.   That, of course, will not  happen.  Most of us will still tune into televised news in order to be brought up to date as quickly as possible on events unfolding in our local environment.   No one can say they  regret having a television on September 11, 2001 and learning, instantly, of the events unfolding in New York City on that day.  The television is a vital source of information and communication and at one time, was regarded as a great blessing to our society and civilization.

There is almost no question that that perspective on the medium has changed and for many of us  it is difficult to turn on a news broadcast without a sense of being used or manipulated.

Perhaps then, in the light of KTLA’s  search for new comedic talent, it  might pay us then to be aware that those providing us with the information we often need to make daily choices or decisions in our lives, are nothing more than paid actors, enjoying their celebrity at our expense and all in the name of outrageous fun.


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