Media will eventually understand that teasing breaking news is bad for business. In the meantime local TV stations will do promos like these:
“Will the most dangerous blizzard in recorded history hit the city tomorrow morning? We’ll tell you on ActionNews5, right after American Idol!"
They must realize that already know the weather, that we have Internet, Twitter, iPhone aps and the Weather Channel. But they tease anyway, happily announcing that they have a secret. Teasing breaking news is one of those Eisenhower-era mass media gimmicks that worked when people had to wait for the day’s broadcast or tomorrow’s newspaper to find out what was going on. Imagine the notion now: That millions of Americans must turn to a handful of news outlets for headlines, sometimes many hours after the fact.
So why do they do it?
Because breaking news is still the currency of today’s 24-hour news cycle. There are more news outlets than ever, but they cover fewer stories. They’re thinner, with smaller news holes and fewer reporters. So they compete on headlines, on being first to deliver what everyone else will have minutes or seconds later.
The race to be first is why news people behave like those cigar-chomping sensationalists
of the old movies. It's why CBS is getting heat for hyping its “exclusive interview” (above) with Penn State assistant coach Mike McQuery, a central figure in the Sandusky scandal.
CBS went all out to promote the exclusive, promising that "McQueary breaks his silence and opens a window... into his emotions.”
Here’s what viewers got:
CBS: "Do you have any idea when you think you might be ready to talk?"
McQueary: "This process has to play out. I just don't have anything else to say."
CBS: "Yeah ... OK ... and then just one last thing, just describe your emotions right now."
McQueary: "All over the place, just kind of, uh, shaken."
CBS: "And you said what, like a ..."
CBS: "Like a snowglobe."
McQueary: "Yes sir."
CBS: "All right."
Bottom line: CBS hyped a 24-second “no comment” that lasted as long as some of its promos. Other media fell over themselves to break the news of how CBS was being criticized. And on and on.
It's no wonder that more than two-thirds of Americans have no faith in what media are selling them.