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How much news is too much news?

April 17, 2013

As the Boston bombing shows, if someone wants to hurt other people, they will find a way. Their motives may differ and could range from some nut case with a deluded wish for fame to actual terrorism. That observation isn’t news.

I vividly remember the news coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I had just shut my locker and was on the way to a class when a teacher stepped out of the teacher’s lounge almost in my face, and just sort of randomly announced the President had been shot. That long ago, most people got news from other people, but of course the teacher had gotten the information via the radio, i.e. from a news broadcast.

From that point on, TV coverage was nonstop. One talking head, er, reporter/news anchor after another repeated the same facts and speculation, on and on and on and on and on and on…well, you get it.

This time I happened to have the TV on when news of the Boston bombing first came over the air waves. Like a lot of other people, my first thought was – Dammit! The b–ds got us again. But strangely, my very next thought was well, that’s all that we’ll hear about for the next week or more.

I fully support getting the word out about the incident. It’s big time news, and the media does perform a valuable service in getting out phone numbers where people can call for information or leave tips or by posting things like evacuation plans for disasters, air traffic shut downs or triage centers for victims.

What I’m not so supportive of is that in the rush to both inform the public  and scoop the competition, an awful lot of speculation gets out there, not to mention tactical information that might make the job of finding the perpetrator(s) harder. I’ve often said that we save unfriendly governments a lot of money, since it seems like we stick anything and everything up on a news channel or website. I know that isn’t literally absolutely true, but it does seem that way sometimes.

Some cable news channels just fixate on the story. It is the only thing on their program lineup for days. A normal news cycle is a couple of days, maybe three or four at most. Do I really need to hear every single news personality saying the same things and often in the same words 24/7? Probably not. If you have something new to share, or the authorities ask you to broadcast something, fine. If not, I’m sure that there is something else happening that you could put on-air. You could just put the old news on your crawls at the bottom of the screen, and then run a synopsis at 5 and 10  p.m. eastern. I really don’t need to hear one of your “experts” dissecting the event 48 times a day. If there is something new, how about a special “update” tag that is different from your normal teases?

This isn’t just a matter of my personal dislike for the technique. There is a point where people just tune it out, and may miss something that is  important. Yes, I want to know if there is fresh news. Yes, I’m angry about the incident and I feel for the victims. Still, there is a point where too much really is too much.

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