Friday, March 07, 2008


I don't work regularly in TV news any more. I work very occasionally -- emphasis on very, less than ten days last year -- filling in for the morning traffic reporter on WTSP. My primary ties to television are field producing stories for a show that airs on Tampa's PBS affiliate WEDU and contributing stories that I shoot, report and edit myself to a high school sports show that airs on Sun Sports, a statewide cable sports network here in Florida.

Oh, and whatever video exploits to which I subject blog visitors.*

I also visit a couple of message boards related to the business at and

I peek at blogs, few as they are by working TV newsies. Most stations frown on the idea. It's OK to tell the truth on the job; talking honestly about your job is quite another matter! Most TV-related blogs I have seen have had little to say worth reading.

This one is an exception. Its author is a sometimes grammatically challenged news photographer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, named Rick Portier. I promise you will forgive the occasional misplaced apostrophe if you read it. It is, by turns, witty, profound and profane. (The masthead of his blog reads, "Turdpolisher ...shining sh*t all over the Gulf Coast since 1990.")

Much of it is aimed at TV insiders but we're talking TV not astrophysics here so it's not too tough to follow even for people whose closest contact with a TV newsroom was seeing the promo for the 11 p.m. news (How your favorite food can kill you! Tonight at 11!) that interrupted Grey's Anatomy.

In a recent entry Rick laments the increasing tabloidization of TV news, pointing to a story about desperate treatments of a dying dog overshadowing what should be the more pertinent issues of the day, including the death of a one-time political kingpin whose influence touched every corner of Louisiana.

He politely suggested that when a dog reaches a point at which it needs $5,000 of medical treatment that it's time to kill the dog and get a new one. OK, so it wasn't suggested so politely.

Comments being open, I chipped in my opinion:

Well, that's one way to get off PETA's mailing list.

When I was a newsroom rookie, the joke was that the three Ts of television stood for Tits, Tots and Terriers. Work one of those into a story and you had a winner. Now it's not a joke; it's a news philosophy.

TV news long ago chased away all the viewers who tuned in looking for actual news. Managers liked to say that viewers didn't have the attention span or the interest or, frankly, the intelligence to watch stories about the issues that genuinely affect them.

That's part of it but truer is the sad fact that too few of the 20-somethings that they're paying 20-something have the attention span or the interest or, frankly, the intelligence to tell meaningful stories about the issues that genuinely affect their viewers.

Either way, dumb down the news long enough and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And a vicious cycle too as the people who aspire to be tomorrow's broadcast journalists grow up watching today's broadcast journalism.

Think about that for a moment. And realize that wherever teevee news is headed, it's not taking a U-turn any time soon. It's never going to be what it used to be.

Besides, dogs are much cuter, more interesting and more useful than all but the rarest of politicians. And I don't even particularly like dogs.

*Apparently all at the same time, if you click the link to a list of all the entries tagged "video". I have the auto start function turned off yet they still play unprompted, at least in Firefox.


Ike said...

The entire industry is being flushed down the toilet -- those still in are just jockeying to be the last turd to turn.

turdpolisher said...

Thanks for reading my mindless rants and for the plug, John. I'll return the link soon.

Ih, and Ike sounds like a man after my own s4!t-stained heart.

John said...

You're welcome for the plug, for what little it will be worth, but don't sell yourself short. If your rants were mindless, they wouldn't be worth the read.