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Rhetorical Analysis - Essay Example

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Local News: The Biggest Scandal on TV. By: Stark, Steven D., Washington Monthly, 00430633 , Jun97, Vol. 29, Issue 6 Database: Academic Source Premier Its shallow, its vapid, it misleads the public-Its the local news TURN ON THE TELEVISION SET AT 5 p.m. or 6 pm…
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Download file to see previous pages There are always the breathless promos ("Nude man found at mall: Film at 11!"). There are always the two amiable chatting anchors, usually a middle-aged man and a somewhat younger woman. There are the younger roving reporters, featured live at various points around the community or nation, where they chat up the anchors. ("Do you know why the man was wearing no clothes, Jim?" "We're working on that, Susan") There's the joking weatherman, the jock sportscaster, and more recently, the health editor and the lifestyle reporter. In a nation of enormous diversity, there's something both comforting and appalling in knowing that no matter where you are, the local news--like the local McDonalds--is always the same. What makes most of these newscasts pernicious is that they are at the same time so influential and so awful--at least in journalistic terms. In recent years, the local newscast has replaced the network evening news and the newspaper alike as the average American's main source of news: A study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in 1996 found that 65 percent of all adults said they regularly watched the local TV news; only 42 percent reported that they did the same with a network newscast. In about two-thirds of all markets, according to another study, the early-evening local news shows attracted better ratings than the network newscasts that followed them--and the local news is on for a longer time. Though local newscasts have been studied far less systematically than the national news, nearly everyone who has examined their content has come away with the same conclusion. For example: A 1995 study of the local news in 50 major markets by the Rocky Mountain Media Watch found that crime and disaster news make up about 53 percent of the news on local newscasts--the grislier the crime, the better. ("Son shoots mother five times with bow and arrow") Fluff--deemed by the study as 'soft news, anchor chatter, teases, and celebrity items"--takes up about 31 percent of the whole newscast, on average (items such as "Girl reunited with dog" or "How to tango"). An informal 1993 survey by The Washington Post of local newscasts on stations in five big cities found the percentage of stories involving crime, sex, disasters, accidents, or public fears running at anywhere from 46 to 74. In its survey, the Post found local newscast obsessed with murders, serial killers, snakebites, spider bites, tornadoes, mudslides, explosions, and satanic activity. A 1990 study published by the Columbia Journalism Review found that 18 of the 32 stories analyzed on local newscasts were inaccurate or misleading, and the station usually made no attempt to correct the mistakes. A report published the same year in the L.A. Reader, following examination of a week's worth of stories in that market, found stations routinely airing PR footage provided by companies with no acknowledgment that this was what was going on. In a 1991 book examining the local news, Making Local News, Phyllis Kaniss found, among other things, that local TV news reporters are more likely to accept their sources' viewpoints than are print reporters. A Chicago reporter looking at "sweeps week" on Los Angeles television found heavily promoted news stories on lesbian nuns, Geraldo Rivera's love life, and sex after 60. As a critic once put it: The worst scandal the local news could ever uncover is itself. Local news didn't start out this way. Until about 1970, local news--with its ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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