OLMSTED FALLS, Ohio – Daily in homes across the Cleveland television viewing area, a phone call to someone on the other end probably begins with something like: “Did you watch this morning? I can’t believe how each of them found an outfit in that color! Can’t wait to see what they’re going to wear tomorrow.”
For several years, a local morning TV news show has asked its anchors to dress in like colors each day. Based on the show’s consistently high ratings, the synchronized hues have no doubt boosted its popularity. That a sizable portion of the audience turns on this station primarily to view the clothing ensemble rather than absorbing the news content seems probable.
I understand how this tradition may prompt viewers to tune in. Yet I cannot help but discern the gimmickry, a ruse that does not meet the journalistic standards established by highly regarded TV news networks. In this instance, this ploy can become a distraction, undercutting the actual conveyance (and importance) of the news being reported.
Frankly, I find it difficult to take the station’s newscast seriously as a result.
To be fair, other TV stations add various annoyances during their newscasts to draw in viewers. Here are just a few: the overly dramatic music theme at the start and during the news stories; the predictable and often hyperbolic appearance of “BREAKING NEWS” on our screens; and the hiring of stunningly attractive reporters, largely perhaps for that reason. (Fortunately, at least in this market, good looks and good journalism are not in opposition — mostly.)
Earlier I made reference to “highly regarded TV news networks.” The television network I most have in mind is BBC World News. Anyone who followed the recent events involving Queen Elizabeth’s death and subsequent funeral and committal services on the BBC will testify to its brilliant coverage from start to finish. The anchors and reporters, along with the film crews, produced a mesmerizing, profound, and breathtaking display of journalistic integrity and expertise. Teleprompters and background music rarely found a role in the production. Articulate and eloquent reportage was the norm. What was worn by those offering the commentary and analysis was of no importance, because the content of their words resonated so powerfully.
To suggest that a local Cleveland TV newscast can compete at the same level as BBC World News would be absurd for reasons I need not list; to propose, on the other hand, that our local stations apply some of the BBC’s journalistic traits would not be.
I have watched BBC World News for some time, enjoying how the news is presented front-and-center. Broadcasters draw little attention to themselves while delivering their words soberly and objectively. Unlike here, anchors and reporters rarely chit-chat with each other. Humor and gentle laughter occur when appropriate, and guffaws are nonexistent. Personal theatrics belong on a stage, not in a broadcast studio. The calculating insertion of political agendas we associate with several of our national news broadcasts are, thankfully, not on display.
To some, the effect may seem anachronistic and boring. For me, refreshing. Refreshing in the sense that local (and national) news broadcasts need not resign themselves to the trivial elements and tired structure currently in place. Surely, it will be difficult to uproot the audience’s expectations and offer a different vision of how the news can be communicated. Habits are not easily broken. But a format which models BBC World News, even at the local level, might inspire potential viewers to give it a look. Replicating these BBC broadcasting qualities might just eliminate the widespread disdain and indifference to television news while providing a more vibrant understanding of news events.
I challenge anyone who has not visited BBC World News to make the effort. You will not be disappointed. A clear and responsible approach to delivering the news has never been more urgent. Nor has the need to build a more informed and educated audience.
Mark Hodermarsky, a retired St. Ignatius High School teacher, has authored eight books. On the horizon is a ninth, “Baseball in Cleveland, 1865-1900: A Treasured Legacy,” which will be published by Cleveland Landmarks Press.
Have something to say about this topic?
* Send a letter to the editor, which will be considered for print publication.
* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments or corrections on this opinion column to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at email@example.com