What’s Happened To The News?

Graphic of screaming news anchor looking flusteredBrian Williams is stepping away from NBC Nightly News for a time after making some questionable comments. Claims about being under fire in a helicopter in Iraq a few years ago appear to be a few shades from the truth. The memory lapse, whether authentic or intentional, has caused a furor.

This focus on television news broadcasts can’t help but shine a light on what used to be bona fide news — information about current and recent events of importance or interest, happenings that might make a difference in our lives. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd took on what passes for television news in her column “Anchors Aweigh“: 

TV news now is rife with cat, dog and baby videos, weather stories and narcissism …. The nightly news anchors are not figures of authority. They’re part of the entertainment, branding and cross-promotion business.

I can’t help but think about respected newscasters Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley from the days of yore. Pioneer Barbara Walters earned a seat at the desk as the first major network female anchor, and Christiane Amapour has distinguished herself as an anchor and host.

Remember Tim Russert? He didn’t let guests on Meet The Press get by with platitudes and self-promotion; he pinned them down for answers.

The giants in the field all were too busy asking hard questions and verifying facts to slow-jam the news with Jimmy Fallon. Brian and Jimmy make for great entertainment, but do such guest appearances enhance the reputation of a supposedly serious news professional?

Too much of today’s “news” is awash in feature stories geared more to our infatuation with celebrities: What’s the latest Kim Kardashian/Kanye West escapade or this week’s Miley Cyrus prank?

Am I the only one who’s insulted when a news anchor appears in a commercial at 10 in the morning to announce what you can expect to see on the evening news? The fact that it has already been rehearsed and is “in the can” is testament to the fact that it’s not necessarily news you’ll be seeing; it’s largely entertainment.

Thank goodness for an abundance of online news sites. We can pick and choose among those reporting on relevant events of the day, whether local, regional or worldwide. And they’re updated almost minute-by-minute.

Meanwhile, I sincerely do wish Brian Williams the best and truly hope he can redeem himself.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)