We’re live and the scene is dead!

Over the last week or so I’ve noticed several rants in articles from folks in various parts of the country who seem to have discovered that some television stations put reporters live on the scene where absolutely nothing is happening or where whatever happened is long over. To borrow from Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca “I’m shocked, shocked that such a practice is taking place. ” (Could you move your live truck, it’s interfering with OUR live truck). The next thing you know, some television news operation somewhere in this country would start hyping breaking news with a special open and….. oh wait, that’s pretty much a common practice too.
According to several of the things I’ve read on Shoptalk (from Cincinnati and Louisville to name a couple) some folks are finally mad as hell and say they aren’t going to take it anymore. How do they propose to do this one might ask? By turning away from local television outlets. Wait, that’s happening alrady too.
Viewers say they are tired of having a breaking news open roll across their screen and then see something they don’t feel is breaking news on their TV. I know I’ve been on the anchor desk when I was informed that we had breaking news and be prepared to talk about what it is we saw on the screen whether it was a routine car crash on the interstate or perhaps a car on fire on a city street or even a house fire. Yah, the incident affected a couple of folks and I always felt bad for them, but so many times we went live because we could and we knew the competition would as well and we had to be able to say we had it first. So, we’d roll the breaking news open and away we’d go. Then four or five hours later, we’d send a reporter back to the scene for a live report from the scene and there was nothing going on. All this time, we were also rolling a crawl at the bottom of the screen with Chyroned information.
Proponents of the breaking news concept and live for the sake of live say this is what research says the audience wants. I’d love to have sat in on that audience. I think like it as long as it doesn’t interfere with what they’re watching. Just cut in with breaking news to Mee-Maw’s soap opera and you’ll get a phone call with language that would make a sailor blush. I know. I’ve been on the receiving end of those calls. Add to the mix that the reporter doing the live shot is at a scene where not much is happening but the ND felt that a presence in the field is needed and it really cranks up the venom of the caller.
Contrary to what some might think, I personally don’t think it helps the credibility of a local news operation to go live for the sake of live or have regularly scheduled breaking news. I’m still amazed at how many times breaking news occurs right at the beginning of a newscast. Why not just report the news as news. Don’t break it. But then, I’m not a consultant, just a viewer and not much of one of those anymore.
I always figured somewhere there were a couple of consultants sitting around a bar watching the screen and saying something like, “Just wait until we share our latest suggestions with the local stations. We’re going to have balloon captions like you’d see in the comics and these will be placed by each of the anchors. If we present these to the ND, SM and GM of each station and tell them they can boost their ratings, you know they’ll buy into it.” Then the consultants just laugh and take another drink of whiskey.

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6 Comments on “We’re live and the scene is dead!”

  1. bishop Says:


    Do you miss being on TV? What are you doing now?

  2. Tommy Stafford Says:

    Right on Joe! I said this for years and years when I was in the business back there. You can only cry wolf so many times before folks don’t care anymore. It happened years ago in weather. Remember all of those times we’d break in for an afternoon thunderstorm that covered a 2 mile area! Its the continued reason folks are turning away in droves, and the news managers just keep scratching their heads wondeing why.

    Noticed Doug Johnson has been checking in on here as well. Where is he these days. Haven’t seen him since leaving the Memphis market years ago. Howdy to you Doug.

  3. Jamey Says:

    I either tossed to the reporter from the anchor desk or was the assigned reporter of these winning liveshots.

    1) city workers putting Christmas decorations on the power poles.

    2) fender bender, 10:10pm. The reporter actually reported “no one was taken to the hospital but one driver did say he felt woozy”.

    3) The burning of an empty tool shed by a reporter who, on his way back to the station called back to report…

    4) The shoplifting of cigarettes at a 7-11.

    5) A mom burned dinner, smoked up the house, neighbors called 911

    6) Buggy hit a car at Wal-Mart. (sorry, I made that last one up, but would it surprise you if it were real?)

  4. Joe Larkins Says:

    Bishop, you asked if I missed being on TV. No, I don’t. As to what I’m doing, I’m working to expand my wife’s marketing business with video production. I also have a couple of other projects I’m trying to get off the ground.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Count me among those getting REAL tired of Breaking News. And lately, one station has resorted to “we bring you this update to Breaking News we had last night”—And tonight I noticed MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had “BREAKING NEWS” in the MidEast. I’ve given up on the local news and am among the Jon Stewart viewers at 10 p.m. Also, as a person who stays up late I started watching CNN International which, so far, isn’t using “Breaking News”, the anchors seem to actually know what they’re talking about, and don’t seem so concerned with promoting their other news programs within their news coverage, as is often the case on CNN/U.S. i.e. Paula Zahn saying, “and you can catch Anderson Cooper every night at 9:00 on Anderson Cooper 360”. OK. I’ll be sure to write that down.
    Ron Michaels
    P.S. How do you send a private email to Joe Larkins?

  6. Joe Larkins Says:

    I didn’t realize that they didn’t do “Breaking News” on the International version of CNN. That says a lot right there.
    As for sending me a private email, just contact me at joelarkins1@yahoo.com .

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