Growing up in Toronto, television consumption was often dominated by the three network stations from Buffalo, New York. On the half hour, programs were punctuated by bumpers for the local newscast, and stereotypically the lead item on Channel 7’s Eyewitness News involved a fire in Lackawanna, Cheektowaga, or West Seneca. This provided great fodder for standup comics on the Canadian side; with some of the humor having to do with the unique names of the city’s suburbs.
Lately, I’ve noticed that the U.S. network newscasts at 6:30 have also been adopting more of a local news approach. The “If it bleeds it leads” idea was not as common in earlier decades, with the networks taking more of a big picture view of the news. A remnant of that can be seen on PBS, which still steers away from fires or plane crashes.
Some of the reason for this has to do with the number of weather related stories which have been relentless over the past three years. I’ve written about that subject here and here, albeit more devotionally.
There can be no doubt however that the U.S. federal election is also pushing a large number of stories and reports off the news cycle. What business mergers, medical advances, environmental initiatives or social trends are we not hearing about because every significant quotation from Donald or Hillary needs to be included?
Someone once said if you want to know what happened the previous day, but if you want a broader perspective on what those happenings mean and why they matter you purchase a weekly news magazine. Unfortunately, both are falling victim to the need to use sensationalism to sell more copies. Occasionally, even the latter will be accused of tabloid journalism.
What are we to do? I would say look more deeply to find the stories that are getting pushed off. Blogs and Twitter help fill in the gaps, as do those one-paragraph state-by-state reports in USAToday.
And try to find the good news stories that we often don’t hear in a season of primaries, caucuses and campaigning.