(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 53 - - -

    In the fall of 1971, I began to attend Wayne State University, which is located in Detroit (of Wayne County in the lower peninsula of Michigan), and I began to take courses that would ultimately be related to a degree in Bachelor of Arts, specializing in radio-TV-film.  Today, I am glad that my background contains courses in journalism and writing--at least in the way that they were taught at the university that I attended in the early 1970s, and, today, I wish journalism courses were taught to all high-school students so that they would better understand what a news story is, how a news story is presented (such as the idea of presenting the "who, what, where, when, and why" of it), and much more.  Today, I have the belief many persons in the country lack the ability to determine what is useful news and what is pseudo news, are unaware of both sides of many political issues and are under-educated about political news, and often never challenge in their minds political news as it is presented through television, and I could talk about more failings.

    This edition of T.H.A.T. focuses on "news" (under which for this discussion are news programs (or newscasts) and political-themed programs).

    I must begin with a talk about "news" as it is presented on television, and the talk is far from an in-depth discussion that could be presented if more space and time were available.  Television is a visual medium, unlike radio, which is an audio medium, and because television is a visual medium, presenting news usually focuses on presenting images over presenting words (in essence, radio can only use words to present information or data).  Since television is a visual medium, the people who put together news shows and the like often feel they need not deliver as much data and fact as, for example, might be presented in news shows and the like for radio.

    By the way, I make this talk about television-offered news and related matters for not only people who were born and live in the United States of America as citizens but also for all other people who wish to understand a bit about news as it is presented in the United States of America--especially persons who are new to the country and are used to living in a place where a government entity, such as the federal government of Russia or the federal government of China, which has a communist-type government, controls what news gets reported.

    Generally speaking, in the United States of America, the federal government does not dictate what news gets reported to citizens, though news reporters can be influenced at least a bit by politicians (maybe by, for example, liking a certain candidate over another candidate) or by their own ignorance about what to report (maybe a result of having been allowed to pass a college or a university journalism curriculum in relation to affirmative-action programs or having only received broadcasting training through a vocational broadcasting school, where teaching honorable journalism and giving students good journalism standards is not the main goal).  A main type of news program is the newscast presented by broadcast networks, such as CBS-TV an NBC-TV, through affiliated stations (most of the broadcast networks are commercial entities or businesses--PBS is a non-profit network, which gets some of its funding from the federal government).  Television stations--whether or not they are affiliated with a broadcast network--may put together and broadcast, using station staffers, newscasts.  Several all-news cable networks exist in the country, and examples of those entities, some of which are owned by broadcast networks, are MSNBC, the Fox  News Channel, and CNN (all-news cable networks began to appear in the 1980s, one decade after the rise of all-news radio stations in the country, and since the first such television-based all-news network appeared, some have come and gone, one of which is FNN and another of which is Satellite News Channel).  It can be said that, as a rule, pretty people are very likely to be presenters of newscasts on television stations based in urban areas and average looking people are usually presenters of newscasts on stations based in rural areas, and the people who present news on stations in urban areas can receive very high salaries a , such as $300.000 a year, and the people who present news on stations in rural areas will receive much lower salaries than the people who work at stations in urban areas--often well under $50,000 a year.  Stations in rural areas are often where people start out their newscasting or reporting careers, and the people who work at stations in rural areas are usually inexperienced or have less experience than those who work at stations in urban areas and are less likely to speak and read as well as the people who work at stations in urban areas (and their ad-libbing usually shows signs of sloppiness, some examples of which can be defined as "stalling" and hesitating), and they will probably be more likely to exhibit "sing-song delivery" (a result of hoping to put excitement into their delivery) than the people at stations in urban areas.  Although people who work at urban stations are very likely to have more experience in delivering news than people who work at rural stations, the people who work at urban stations are not necessarily smarter than the people who work at rural stations.

    Let me present some comparisons between newscasts offered by television stations based in Detroit (or the Detroit area), which is an urban television market, and stations based in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, which I will define as stations in rural markets, and I am only discussing newscasts given in the evenings.  Newscasts of stations in the Detroit area will present most of their stories with live video or recorded video, and newscasts of stations in the northern region will often have announcers reading stories with no accompanying video, especially during the weekend newscasts.  Newscasts of northern stations will have more of what can be called "little stories," such as stories of bank robberies and township embezzlements, and newscasts of stations in the Detroit area will usually have stories that can be made to seem "big" to viewers or can be made to be exciting, and, in fact, stations in Detroit are more likely to play up every story as something big or really important than northern stations are.  Newscasts of stations in the Detroit are more likely to make time for in-studio "banter," which is humorous talk between the anchors or other reporters, and they may even joke around; however, newscasts of stations in the northern region will have some banter--but it is a very little amount (bantering is wasting time or "padding").  Anchors and reporters of Detroit stations are much more likely than anchors and reporters of northern stations to do asides that are commentary--such as by commenting about how horrible an event of a story was after delivering the story--and often the commentary is turned into banter (the anchors and reporters who do such work are playing on viewers emotions, and I say that it is commentary or editorializing and is inappropriate).  Northern stations cover more local sports stories, particularly football games of high schools, in the fall than do Detroit stations; in fact, half of the newscasts at eleven o'clock in the evening on Fridays in the fall for at least two stations in the northern region are taken up with sports.  Northern stations do not have their weathercasters, reporters, or anchors give political opinions, but it is common practice for stations in Detroit to have weathercasters, reporters, and anchors give opinions; I have seen Rich Luterman, a weathercaster for Channel 2 (WJBK-TV), sit in for round-table-like discussions for the late-evening newscasts on Channel 2 (I think it is such nonsense to have a weathercaster involved in opinion work).  Stations in the northern region are more likely to report a story about an event taking place elsewhere in Michigan--out of their region--than stations in Detroit area; "Detroit" is the main focus of the big-name stations in Detroit.  Stations in Detroit have big news budgets and have more revenue than stations in the northern region have, and that allows stations in Detroit to have reporters who do work to show up bad business practices or what appear to be crooked business practices (for instance, Channel 2 has the "Problem Solvers" unit).  Stations in Detroit have political discussion shows that they produce, and some of those shows are Spotlight on the News (a product of WXYZ-TV), Flashpoint (a product of WDIV-TV), Michigan Matters Beat (a product of WWJ-TV), and American Black Journal (a product of WTVS-TV); these half-hour weekly shows, often shown in weekend time slots, may have a moderator with a panel of reporters who talk about issues and interview guests or have a moderator who interviews guests.

    Special commentary:  I have been associated with the radio industry and television industry in some way since 1971, and through experience and study, I have come up with a couple thoughts related to television news and radio news.  Radio has more time to cover a particular topic than television does--or more time can be spent on discussing a particular political topic on a political-themed radio discussion show (which can exist as a three-hour show every weekday) than on a political-themed television discussion show (which can be a haf-hour long and only presented once a week).  Since television is more interested in images than words, nonsense thoughts and nonsense-thinking persons can do better on television than on radio, and one reason for that is there is little time to rebut nonsense-thinking persons or nonsense thoughts on television than on radio.  Television is a better medium than radio is for "liberal"-themed political thoughts, since on radio a presenter is unable to cover-up for long the tactic of presenting illogical ideas and defective facts or nonsense thought--on television, image and glossy presentation can supersede logical ideas and facts and common-sense thought.  Political-themed discussion shows on television that have a moderator and a round-table format often present little useful thoughts, since participants can only talk for a few moments and can often get involved in arguing and interrupting thoughts of others, and often the shows spend time having people make predictions (and a prediction is not news--it is speculation), and it is commonplace for the moderator and panelists to regularly debate the image of politicians and how politicians are presenting images (which wastes time that is better used to discuss issues and to discuss whether or not the issues make sense and are feasible or, for example, are good economics).

    By the way, I say that, when news people ask a politician of one political party to be a "character witness" for another politician in the same party, which might result in praise for that other politician, the news people are ultimately offering nearly useless information to viewers.

    Here is a "for-the-record" section.  On Monday, July 14, 2008, Channel 20 in Detroit, which is WMYD-TV and WMYD-HD, began to carry a prime-time newscast on weekdays, and the half-hour newscast runs for thirty minutes beginning at 10:00 p.m.  Since the debut, the anchors for the newscast--entitled My TV20 News at Ten--have been Nathan O'Leary and Sunya Walls.  Other regulars on the newscast have been Jorge Avellan (a news reporter), Dave Leval (a news reporter), Susie Martin (the "MY TV20 Meterologist"), and Roland Glembine (the sports reporter).  In addition, Greg Russell, who has been known for such local shows as The Movie Show and The Movie Show Plus, has done voice-over work for entertainment segments.  This station is a Granite Broadcasting station.  Jorge Avellan, Dave Leval, and Greg Russell are local reporters.  All the other talents listed are members of  the Independent News Network (or INN, which is based in Davenport, Iowa).  In essence, reporters in Detroit gather information and video and send the material to Davenport, Iowa, where staffers of INN take the material and mix it in with material that they have gathered to create newscasts for Channel 20.  The history of  INN can be traced back to 1999, and since 1999, INN, which is based at KLJB-TV, has become an entity that produces newscasts for television stations (not many) in the country, and some of them are WLTZ-TV (Columbus, Georgia), WPGA-TV (Macon, Georgia), and WNFC-TV (Montgomery, Alabama).  The news director of INN is Doug Rutherford, and the production director is Chad Schenider.  Really, it was in June 2002 that INN really began the push to provide newscasts to stations around the country--the products were "The American Times" and "INN News."  It is possible you could see other INN staffers anchoring newscasts or providing news reports for Channel 20 who have not been listed in this paragraph yet, so I will say that some of the other staffers of INN are: Libby Allison (a producer/anchor), John Beard (a producer/anchor), Kurt Liske (a reporter), Phill Doherty (a producer/anchor), Vanessa Murphy (a reporter), Mark Prater (a meterologist), Jeremy Moss (a producer/sports reporter), and Evan Hutchinson (a meterologist).

    The Independent News Network has no relation to a syndicated newscast service of  the 1980s called I.N.N. (a.k.a. Independent Network News, which became known as USA Tonight).

    And now I come to the topic of TV Guide again, and this is paragraph includes comment and fact, and I think the evidence presented will show more of the media's willingness to show more fluff and less fact to customers.  On page eight of the edition of TV Guide for July 7, 2008, Editor-in-chief Debra Birnbaum presented a statement of hers--"Best Tweak Ever!"  The opening of the article noted; "TV is going through some pretty dramatic changes, so we thought it was only fitting to give the country's best TV entertainment magazine a new look as well.   We love talking about and obsessing over our favorite shows as much as you do, so we've injected some of that buzz and energy into our pages.  We've also introduced a new design, making our pages look bolder and more stylish...."   Recently, double-issues have been showing up from TV Guide; for example, the magazine was a double-issue for March 31-April 13, 2008, for June 30-July 13, 2008, for July 21-August 3, 2008; and for August 11-24, 2008.  Those are signs of cutbacks, providing less for what the customer has expected to receive for money delivered.  In past editions of T.H.A.T., I have talked about other cutbacks for the TV Guide magazine, and now, the hint of another cut has come.  If you look at the edition of TV Guide for the August 11-24, 2008, you will see that for the days from August 11, 2008, through Sunday, August 17, 2008, the magazine covers the prime-time schedules of nine broadcast networks and and seventy-three cable-type networks, and you will see that for the days from Sunday, August 18, 2008, through Sunday, August 24, 2008, the magazine covers the prime-time schedules for nine broadcast networks and thirty-eight cable-type networks. The magazine chopped out 35 cable-type networks from the listings, and its cutbacks hint that in the future two-week TV Guide editions will cut back on some channels from week one to week two.  It seems to me the management seems to believe presenting the fluffy stuff, like nonsense gossip and such, is more useful to customers than presenting fact about what is on television.  At the end of Debra Birnbaum's article, Debra Birnbaum noted--"...And keep tuning in every week for the most compelling and comprehensive TV coverage anywhere."  That statement--I say--can be put under the heading of "flap doodle."  I say that it is time to cut the columnist staff and fluff-article staff and return to giving facts about what is going on, especially in this day and age when other publications, such as local newspapers, are cutting back in what they offer for information about television-program showing times, as I noted, for example, in the previous edition of T.H.A.T. in relation to the Detroit Free Press.  I must point out that TV Guide has yet to do what I would consider a really useful news story for readers about digital-to-analog converter boxes (no edition has yet had an article about such boxes).

    At this point, I take a station break of sorts to answer the trivia question posed in the previous edition of T.H.A.T.  The question was related to an episode of the television series from the 1960s entitled Star Trek, and that episode that I talked about was "The Omega Glory," which focuses on a planet in which people are fighting for their rights, not unlike people who created the United States of America, and it even has a "WE THE PEOPLE"-type document as part of the story line.  I asked in the previous edition--Who played the Captain Ronald Tracey in the story?  I can report that Captain Ronald Tracey was played by Morgan Woodward.

    For a number of years, the subject of "global warming" has been the subject of  news stories and fictional stories, and when I hear about "global warming" I wonder why no one ever notes in a discussion about "global warming" how the changes in the molten matter of the Earth (that inner fluid part of the Earth) and the changes in the magnetic field of the Earth might help contribute to slight changes in weather from year to year at a particular place.  It was in 1993 that television viewers were given a television movie that had "global warming" as the theme--television writers and producers pick up on hot topics of the moment, and global warming with the soon-to-come death of Earth as we know it was a big topic in 1993.  What was the name of that TV-movie?  Craig T. Nelson was one of the performers in the movie.

    Oh, the station break is over, and it could be said you were given two "spots" (two paragraphs).

    In a discussion of television news in relation to politics, I cannot discuss whether or not a particular viewer is smart enough to understand a given news story or understand when a given news story is presented without all the pertinent facts or lacks all the facts of a particular side, but I say that it is very likely a high number of viewers are unable to really catch when an idea within a news story is a dumb idea or when a politician's statement is foolishness, especially in a place where high-school graduation rates are lower than 50 percent and have been low for decades (which, I say, are signs of a "dead city" and not, as some might suggest, a "dying city").  A person should consider the self as dumb if the person does not realize a news story in which a politician suggests that windmills should be constructed off-shore in the ocean to provide energy to the country has offered nonsense thought (where, I say, that the windmills would be easy targets for attack right before war or during war).  A person should consider the self as dumb if the person does not realize a news story in which a politician suggests that windmills should be constructed on bridges is a dumb idea (I say that the person who makes the suggestion is not thinking--windmill vibration would be a problem for a bridge).  A person should consider the self dumb if the person does not understand a most important reason for drilling for oil and processing oil within the borders of the country is to have systems working and existing within the country for providing oil-based products upon the onset of war.  A person should consider the self as dumb about television news coverage if the person does not wonder why the major television news organizations do not take into account changes in the Earth core (the inner movements of materials) and the magnetic field and changes in the sun in the "global-warming" equation.  A person should consider the self as dumb about television news coverage if the person does not understand the major television news operations have not provided numerous stories about how schools and other facilities have been built in Iraq since the war in Iraq began.  A person should consider the self as dumb about television news coverage if the person does not understand that major television news operations did a poor job in 2007 and 2008 at least in pointing out the dumbness and ineptness and dangerousness of a particular political candidate, especially if it is not shown that candidate also has ties to socialist ideas or people or even communistic ideas or people and then becomes the nominee of a political party for a particular office.  A person should consider the self dumb if the person has not received thoughts often from television that China is a communist country in which personal assets--especially those of foreigners--that exist in China could be easily seized by the federal government at any moment, which should make any person wary about investing in China, which is also a country in which the standards for products are lower than they are for products made in the U.S.A. (I say that Americans are getting accustomed and are accepting lower and lower standards for products everyday--given that China is flooding the marketplace in the U.S.A. with products that have inferior standards and it is a trend that has been slowly coming since the 1970s).

    Yes, it does seems to me many people would be able to consider themselves one of the persons indicated in the previous paragraph (the "person" indicated is, for example, the person in "...a person should..."), if more people were taught beginning journalism in high school, and, for example, I think such a class could eliminate what can be considered a less useful class, such as a "study hall" (or whatever thing is similar with it today).  Such a journalism class should involve having students learn how to write "who, what, where, why, and when" paragraphs, and, certainly, the class could take up the topic of  what the "significance" of a story is or might be.  Such a class should show how news entities have come to rely on surveys to create survey-based news stories or survey-driven news stories, which are pseudo news stories--real news stories are about things that happen.  Such a class should show how providing "speculation" opinions is commonplace in news stories, and that is bad.  Such a class should make students take stories that have been broadcast and do research to see whether or not each story is valid, such as by having correct statistics or data, and such a class could be used to show the differences between stories and editorials that use verifiable facts and data and stories and editorials that do not.  Such a class should take recorded material of television political-themed discussion shows to show what may or may not be nonsense thought, how to recognize nonsense thought, and how to recognize nonsense thinkers.  And such a class could show what television might report and might not report in regards to politics and what radio might report and might not report in regards to politics, and that might show students what "bias" in reporting is, or it might show how television news entities can cover up bias at least a little.

    Of course, I wonder whether there are enough teachers around to pass along to students the correct ways of journalism, as I would.  I would explain how most people are so busy with their lives--working or going to school or doing whatever each day--that they do not have a lot of time to do high-quality research on political candidates and government officials, and people should expect it should be up to news people on television to pass along real knowledge and show when political candidates or government officials are pushing ideas of communism and socialism or nonsense thought--no matter what ethnicity of the political candidates or government officials--and if the news people fail to meet their obligations of what journalism should be in this country, they should not be given respect and be looked up to.  I would explain how a pretty face, like that which might be on the face of a television newscaster or a politician, does not indicate a sound  mind, a mind that can think, or an honorable mind.

Stay well!


P.S.: Be aware--Communism is a type of ideology in which true information must to blocked from getting to the people and in which people who attempt pass along truthful information and destroy false information must be silenced, and communism thrives in an atmosphere where false information cannot be challenged and where shallow thinkers can go unchallenged.

P.S. Two: You should wonder why some politicians are attempting to bring back the "Fairness Doctrine" or the "equal-time" idea (related to politics and political issues) for radio and not for television.

copyright c. 2008
Date published: September 10, 2008

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