“And now we go to (insert name of local TV personality) reporting live from the scene.”
We hear this every night on the evening news when covering a fire, accident, crime, meeting or other event. What I’m beginning to notice, though, is how frequently little or no additional, actual news is reported from the scene.
The assumption is that proximity to the story somehow automatically establishes insight and credibility. Yet, as often as not the ubiquitous field report is useless. Because, the on-camera personality simply repeats what the anchor already said or restates the obvious. There’s no real investigation or even journalism, for that matter. So why bother?
The banality of these reports goes something like this:
ANCHOR: Authorities report a rise in the possession of alcoholic beverages at a local park. We turn to reporter Trisha Janikowski-Smith for a closer look at the crisis.
FIELD REPORTER: Thank you Jim. I’m here in the heart of William Land Park where authorities have noticed a rise in the possession of alcoholic beverages. As you can see (photographer pans to the street sign), the possession of alcoholic beverages and open alcoholic beverage containers is, in fact, prohibited.
ANCHOR: Yes, I see. Trisha, I notice too that parking on the street is only allowed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
FIELD REPORTER: That’s correct, Jim. For 1 hour. Also, the street appears to be one way — another story we are checking into. This is Trisha Janikowski-Smith reporting live from William Land Park. Back to you in the studio.
ANCHOR: Thank you Trisha. We’ll keep following this evolving story and provide more details as soon as they become available.
Enough with such nonsensical reporting, is my recommendation to TV producers. To the public who want to be informed, my recommendation is to read a newspaper – in print or online. The fact is, “print” is not only not dead, it remains the better (read: only) source for timely, thorough investigative journalism.