Sunday, June 21, 2009

Backyard Bear in Cleveland

How do you do a TV story about a woman spotting a black bear in her backyard where there is no bear there to be spotted when you are? If you're WJW Fox8 in Cleveland, you do this:

(If the video is disabled, you can see the story on the Fox8 website.)

Call it the Colbertization of news.

Or, as Stephen would say it, the Col-bear-ization.

If you're a station desperately behind in the ratings, I can see taking this attitude toward the news. The danger is that you wind up being the joke rather than telling it. This is hard to do well; you're far more likely to wind up with viewers laughing at you than with you. Another challenge is getting people to agree to do interviews with you once word of what you're going to do to them gets around. Even Colbert is amazed that people will still sit for interviews with him.

Reporters risk their careers if they go in this direction. If they don't make it to the Daily Show, it would be awfully hard to land a job at a traditional station with this stuff on a resume tape. It's less dangerous for photographers who could write in their cover letters, "Please watch the video but ignore the 'journalism.' Wanting to work at a station like yours where they do the news the right way is why I sent you this tape."

You could argue that a bear in the wood behind someone's house is not news at all.

And I could not argue against you.

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