Friday, June 24, 2005


"Cut the Crap!" - And Other Pearls of Wisdom from Oklahoma City

"Tell me the stuff! Tell me the stuff! Tell me who to be mad at, so I can write them a letter!"

That was just one of the opinions expressed, at a fascinating television and radio news focus group I attended tonight here in Oklahoma City (where, strangely, it was cooler than in Chicago!). This was the first night of a weekend session sponsored by the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation (RTNDF) and hosted by Poynter Institute facilitator Al Tompkins.

The feedback from this group of "average Joes and Janes" from Oklahoma City was very interesting. For instance, you should have seen the looks on the faces of the TV news folks when the citizen panel agreed - almost unanimously - that live shots mean nothing to them. In fact, they find the trumpeting and chest-beating that some stations do about live shots to be annoying to the point that they will change the channel!

At the end of the evening, Al asked each citzen panelist to give one sentence of advice to the thirty or forty broadcast journalists who were in the room. Here are some of the highlights:

* Be thorough, direct and in-depth. Give me meat and potatoes!

* You don't need fancy graphics and dramatic music to give me the news.

* Skip the flowery "poetic" writing. Just give me the facts.

* Some of your news teases insult my intelligence!

* Please, no "pseudo news" stories that are thinly failed promo pieces for your networks shows or advertisers.

* Do fewer stories about animals. If I see another water-skiing squirrel or cute kitten that was rescued from a sewer...Grrr!

* Do more investigative stories that affect my life and the lives of my kids.

* But, when you do those investigative stories, don't over-dramatize them!

* Please cut the celebrity news. Did we need to see daily progress reports about the Michael Jackson case?

* Reality TV is not news. Please don't insult me by treating it as news!

* The commercials that air during your newscasts affect my viewing habits. I will switch away during annoying commercials...and I may not come back to your channel!

* Cut the crap!

How's that for advice?

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