Look at the title: “Is TV News Journalism Salvageable?” It presumes a thing broken, that may or may not be rescued from the alley before the garbage truck comes.
But, I went, because I find it a luxury to step back from the daily panic of doing, and talk about doing better. Maybe there would be talk instead of sanding and refinishing, or a fresh coat of paint.
One new path
Kai Nagata was headlining, with a critique of TV news, and why he quit his job when he felt more like part of the problem than the solution. He’s a very engaging speaker, but I bristled when he took some cheap shots, mocking CBC News and CTV’s Investigators (one of whom was in the audience) for having flashy graphics. As I said on Twitter, if you’re going to criticize TV news, don’t start by dogging new investment in enterprise and original storytelling (something CBC is also putting more local resources into).
Still, he made solid points analyzing one of his own previous stories, describing how he hadn’t the time or freedom in that job to do the journalism he wanted.
So, he’s now sleeping in a tent in his parent’s backyard, working on a solution—networking online and across the country to talk about new models of production and distribution. And let me be clear: I don’t take umbrage with that, or with anyone taking risks to tell stories they care about.
Is that it?
But the discussion that followed left me disappointed, because it turned so cynical, despite the smart people assembled on stage. [It would have helped if there was someone who currently works in TV news participating; the organizers had tried to find someone but were not able to.]
There was acknowledgement from a couple of panelists that there are some good people in TV “working their guts out” to tell important stories. But little talk about how to get more of that.
Instead, we heard blanket criticisms of the industry, repeated references to “cat up a tree” stories, and the crowd applauded the panelist who thought TV news should die. It felt more like a discussion called, “Is TV News something we can roll our eyes at and dismiss?”
Now, take this all with a grain of salt; I work in TV news. I’m not saying it’s perfect, nor am I in a position to critique or defend the industry or my employer. But at the very least, if you’re going to host a discussion called, “Is TV News Journalism Salvageable?” surely there’s a more interesting and intellectually challenging answer than “no.”
I have some ideas I’m working on, to loosen some of the logistical shackles on my own televised journalism. More on that later, I hope.
Maybe you have ideas too. What do you think would improve television news? Tell a reporter what you think would make it better. Genuine suggestions, not sneering please.