Renew the focus on "...serving the community interest..."
Media companies, and the FCC, need to be reminded of the charter to "...serve in the interest of the local community..." These words were, for many years, the key covenant made between the broadcaster and the FCC in exchange for the right to use the airwaves. At some point in the 80's, the covenant was broken. Local radio stations were assimilated into media conglomerates, local news and regional programming were replaced, formats were changed and, by the end of the 90's, most of the radio programming was served via a "lights out" facility with a national feed and "local traffic and weather on the hour". The Television industry followed the same model. The result was best illustrated last week when we could see Tiger Woods on almost every station on the dial.
Let's get back to media that serves the needs of the local community and acts in the public interest .
There are many different ways the media companies can change their approach to delivery new and information. One way that I believe that media companies can change their approach is to utilize social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Another way is they can start focusing their news on issues that are actually beneficial to the public and not stories like what country Angelina Jolie is adopting her next baby from.
Social Networking sites are amazingly popular in America. The vast majority of Americans have some sort of social networking account wether it be Facebook, Twitter, or even Myspace. These avenues can benefit media companies in ways I don’t think they can even realize. Companies can create a Facebook group or page or a Twitter account to give the public a way to communicate with them. Now I know a lot of companies belong to these social networks but I think that they can use theses sites to post things that they may have not of been able to get on that nights news. They can also post polls and things like that to be more viewer interactive. A lot of news stations websites aren’t the most technically friendly sites. In the case of Facebook the page is already set up all you need to do is post your stories and add a little bit of personal touch to it, Twitter can be used the same way, companies can post short news leads or teasers for that night or days newscast. They can also use it as a way to get the publics opinion on issues. For example they could Tweet “How do you feel about you’re children using Facebook” and instead of getting yes or no answers to questions people can Tweet their opinions, and the same goes for wall posts on Facebook or status updates. Now I know some news stations have polls and questions available on their websites, but like I said before maybe a lot of people don’t feel comfortable using a stations website because they don’t know how to navigate their way around it, but they know Facebook or Twitter. Diane Mermigas states in her article Media giants learning what the Web can teach that “The rapid embrace of the Internet by U.S. businesses, homes and schools is empowering consumers, who can access a great flood of information and options with the click of a mouse.” This telling us that the internet is becoming such a crucial part of cultural, and it’s being used everywhere. This supports the idea of media companies using not only their own websites to spread information but social networks as well. Companies shouldn’t limit themselves to one avenue, they need to be open to new types of ways to convey the news.
Secondly I think that media companies neeed to start focusing more on stories that actually benefit the public. There is to much of the entertainment kind of news, things like what Miley Cyrus wore at the awards show, or who Taylor Swift is dating, things like that I’m sure are appealing to some people but it’s not really news. News to me is information the benifits the general public, like they was a tornado in such in such place, or there was a murder in such in such town. Those sort of things are beneficial for everyone to know. Robert Knight states in his article What Is News In The Age of Blog and Tweet? “It's fair to say that the 21st century has brought with it an even greater emphasis on celebrity, and that emphasis can skew our perspective on the news.” This supports the idea that media companies are no longer looking for stories that are informative, they’re looking for stories that are entertaining. Knight also quotes a former wire service reporter and editor, Margie Bauman of Anchorage, Alaska, saying “The media should report the news rather than act as a public relations agency for people who are becoming famous for being famous.” This quote sums up my argument. Media is becoming more like publicists rather than journalists. Journalist are supposed to report the news and the concept of what is news has become blurred. In the eyes of today’s media news is anything that will draw in views or listeners. If it comes down to reporting a local landmark in a town being knocked down or what happened to Justin Bieber the news my report the Bieber story first because people have become so accustomed to getting information about celebrities that they see this a news rather than an old land mark be knocked down. So what I’m ultimately trying to say is that media companies need to understand that entertainment is not news.
In conclusion , there are two ways I believe media companies can change their approach to getting information and news to the public, through social networks and reporting important news for the public. Though these idea’s are very far apart I believe they are both intriguing yet helpful ways for media companies to approach their delivery of news and information.
Caitlin O'Toole commented
I think Rick Santina makes a good point. For example, my hometown, St. Louis, could benefit from having a more community outlook on the media. The only news that gets filtered through the conglomerates here are the rising death tolls from violence in the city. People are afraid to visit St. Louis' oldest and most historical neighborhoods and are missing out on the cultural and educational benefits St. Louis has to offer. Not everyone wants to hear about Ryan Seacrest talking on Sunday mornings on the radio about the latest celebrity sightings and scandals. Personally, I want something with a bit more substance that could educate me in a way, whether it be locally, nationally, or internationally.
This sounds good on the surface but I actually see the issue of local emphasis a two-sided sword. What we're talking about is spot TV and local news. Among the issues observed is pack journalism - which is what you have with the Tiger Wood story. The other side is all too often TV news focuses on the sensational and that usually means crime reporting. That is largely because the pictures are usually available and the coverage provided is pretty simple to piece together.
I was just visiting with a guy who had been a TV weather anchor for 30 years and suggested doing a live streaming channel concentrating on long form interviews and debates with candidates in Georgia. His immediate reaction was that such 'political' coverage was an audience killer.
The real issue is that the broadcast stations, because of their relative scarcity, have the incentive to maximize their audience, which, by definition, means playing to the lowest common denominator in terms of programming.
As an ad-supported format, broadcast TV lives or dies on the size of its audience and the concept of narrow-casting - currently flourishing on the Internet - is to those acculturated in broadcast heresy.
How the FCC might impact that culture is a challenge. I certainly don't have an answer - I'll start a new topic if I can come close - but what I can say is that whatever approach chosen should look closely at the incentives. Why? Because all too often, policies fail because incentives weren't given proper consideration.
Just giving an incentive for local content, though, would do little more than increase the amount of crime reporting, I"m afraid.