George Boardman: TV news can’t match newspapers, if you want the full story
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There have been a couple of complaints in this very newspaper in recent weeks about biased or incomplete coverage of news events on television. The basic complaint seems to be that television news isn’t more like newspapers.
The first complaint was lodged last month by fellow columnist Terry McLaughlin, who complained the morning talk shows gave scant or no coverage to a report the Senate Intelligence Committee has not found any direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
McLaughlin specifically mentioned ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’ “This Morning,” and NBC’s “Today” shows for their lack of coverage, and rightly pointed out that after more than two years of reporting and speculation on the subject, it was disingenuous of the networks to ignore the committee’s report.
Robin Diel weighed in earlier this month with an Other Voices column on what he called the major networks’ “incomplete news” coverage. Diel cited a few stories that in his view were ignored or not fully reported, and pointed out that, “Omission of information in many aspects is just as disingenuous as the fabrication of information.”
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I think the problem here is that both writers have expectations of TV news that are framed by years of reading newspapers and magazines, but print and broadcast journalism are entirely different creatures.
Good newspapers report what happened and what it means in a conscientious effort to make the world more understandable to readers. Television news doesn’t have time for both, so it focuses on what happened. Besides, that offers better pictures.
If you eliminate the ads and promotions, the average 30-minute evening network news broadcast has about 22 minutes to report the events of the day. That gives the producers two basic choices: Broadcast as many stories as you can to give viewers a broad overview of what happened — the headline approach — or focus on a few important stories of the day — the PBS approach. Most networks try a blend of both, but never have the time needed to fully explore an issue.
The morning news shows are even worse, preferring to devote large chunks of time to celebrity gossip or tips on how to save money on the newest fashions. (The exception is “Fox and Friends,” which has become the propaganda arm of the Trump administration, but most people on the West Coast don’t get up early enough to watch it.)
Pew Research has been conducting an annual survey for almost 20 years that quizzes people on current events and asks them where they get their news. People who cite the morning news shows as their primary source of news and information are the least informed among us, while the most knowledgeable citizens are those who get most of their news from reading rather than watching.
But most people rely on television for their news and information — they seem to be content with headlines. That puts them one step ahead of people who get their news from YouTube videos or Facebook, but is hardly reassuring for a country that can only thrive if knowledgeable citizens make well-informed decisions.
I hope my auto insurance company doesn’t see the recently released list of worst intersections in western Nevada County. If word gets around, car insurance could be as difficult to get in the south county as fire insurance is elsewhere.
If you live in Lake of the Pines, as I do, it’s almost a case of nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Magnolia Road, which I have to drive on every time I leave the lake, has one of the highest concentrations of collisions in the county, along with Wolf Road and Dog Bar, two alternate routes I occasionally take to Grass Valley when I’m in no hurry and the weather’s nice.
But when I manage to escape Magnolia unscathed and drive onto Combie Road, I’m still not out of danger because the Combie intersection at Higgins Road is one of the most dangerous in the county. And then there’s Highway 49! It’s a wonder I’ve managed to drive in the area for 19 years without getting in a wreck.
Trisha Tillotson, director of the county’s Public Works Department, which keeps track of this stuff, told KNCO the most frequent causes of wrecks are improper turning, speeding and driving under the influence.
That would explain why the Combie/Higgins intersection is on the list. If you make a left-hand turn onto Combie from Higgins, you have to make accurate judgments about the speed and distance of cars in three lanes of traffic — one going east, two going west — before turning. You only have to be wrong on one of them to cause a wreck.
Since I’m not tempted to stop at the Starbucks on Combie when I hit the road early in the morning, I rarely make left-hand turns from that intersection, and the problem should go away when a stoplight is scheduled to be installed at the intersection later this year. The turns that really bug me are the ones I encounter when I drive 49 to Grass Valley or Nevada City.
Cars entering the highway from the numerous roads along the route seem to think it’s OK to crawl into traffic and then take their own sweet time getting up to highway speed. These drivers make two shaky assumptions about their fellow motorists: Other drivers are paying attention and the cars they cut in front of have good brakes. No driver should ever make either assumption.
I suspect a good share of these drivers is in vehicles that aren’t in great condition, and have to labor to attain the speed limit. This is particularly noticeable when I drive the Spring Hill section of 49 in Grass Valley. There’s always at least one car that can barely make it to the “summit” at Dorsey Drive.
Highway 49 is dangerous enough thanks to speeding (where are those CHP units when you really need them?), various animals darting into the roadway, and the lack of a center divider. We don’t need more drivers that can’t or won’t attain highway speed in a manner that doesn’t endanger other motorists.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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