Thursday, May 22, 2008

May Media Month--LIVE TV!!!!

At those popular "meet the media" panels many of us have attended, the TV journalists talk about the uniqueness of their medium and how that affects what they consider news. Usually that means tight deadline, and they have to have a visual (in the same way that birds are attracted to shiny tin foil).

For that reason, news in TV isn't always dictated by the substance of a story. This can lead to trite treatment of stories and messages we want to get to our publics. Some PR people I talk to consciously determine that some news releases are better not sent to TV--90 seconds of "good TV" isn't always good PR when publics aren't getting the full story.

The treatment over substance problem of TV news is most evident when they go LIVE!!! I put this in all caps and with three exclamation points because I don't want to appear nearly as excited about live TV as the TV stations themselves. I had to tone it down a bit.

Ya know, LIVE!!! just isn't that exciting anymore. Sometimes it's relevant to point out that the news is live. It's best to just do so with a simple graphic in the corner of the screen. But it's annoying when anchors have to boldly boast about the fact that they are LIVE!!!

Most of the time, local TV going LIVE!!! is actually not a big deal. A reporter doing his or her stand-up in the dark outside a building for the 11 p.m. news long after the actual event happened is ridiculous. Get the poor sap out of the cold, or just run the pre-recorded interviews and VO. What's worse is the "LIVE!!! in the newsroom" reports. Um, you're reporters, it's time for the news, and you're actually live in the newsroom, which is, you know, like an office for reporters and where you do your job and stuff. So, were we to have expected otherwise?

TV had the ability to broadcast live decades ago--get over it local TV. Consumers have. That's right, LIVE!!! is not only not exciting, it's irrelevant. With "time-shifting" all the rage in the form of Tivo, VOD (video on demand), DVRs, Internet streaming, RSS feeds, etc., consumers don't care when TV stations are live; they care about when THEY are ready to consume news. The fact that you DON'T need to be in the living room at 6, 10 or 11 p.m. to watch local TV news is what excites viewers today.

As PR people, we could adopt a strategy to accommodate local TV's fascination with LIVE!!! by timing our press conferences and stressing visuals and other LIVE!!! opportunities. But, our profession has enough image problems for promoting fluff. We should focus on helping them with, you know, actual news.

I'm Tim Penning, blogging LIVE!!! in the extra bedroom I use as a home office.


Craig Rich said...

Great post, Tim. What I love is when 3 or 4 TV stations show up at a local city council meeting for some trumped up sensational story (usually designed to make the local politicos look stupid), but the agenda changes or no fireworks ensue, but they still hang around "live at city hall" for 3 hours after the meeting is over to cover "it", LIVE!!!

Tim Penning, APR said...

Yes. As a former print reporter I used to be frustrated when I'd sit though a 3-hour meeting to get the details and some blow-dried TV reporter would show up at the end and get a quick confirmation of what happened, grab a sound bite from the mayor, and leave. May have been one bad reporter I encountered back then, but not a glowing rep for TV. Local TV reporting is better these days I must say.