Given the ongoing discussion about local TV news, it seems appropriate to reproduce a bit of Lindsay Barnes’ interview with Ralph Nader in The Hook, on the topic of public advocacy:
It’s going on all the time on the local level, but you don’t hear about it because of the deterioration of the local news. It’s a caricature now. There are probably only four minutes of actual news out of 30 minutes. Weather isn’t news unless you have got a hurricane. News is what’s going on the community: improving neighborhoods, what local businesses are doing. But they actually advertise the weather segment like you can’t get it anywhere else. They promote these weather correspondents as seers. There’s nothing funnier than watching the weather forecast when there’s six days of sunshine. They take the temperature in two towns that are two miles apart and say, “It was 59 in this town, but it was 60 over here!” It’d be tragic if it wasn’t funny.
Because I’m contractually obligated to do so at least once a year, I must mention here the really great analysis that Coy Barefoot provided of NBC-29’s coverage in C-Ville Weekly back in the late 90s. He watched something like a year of their evening news broadcasts and calculated precisely how much of each broadcast is dedicated to particular topics — weather, sports, and particular categories of news. It painted a pretty bleak picture. The article is, sadly, unavailable online. Maybe C-Ville will dig it up and put it online some day.