Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NewsFix... as a Concept

John Marine | 8/17/2010 01:10:00 AM | |
(UPDATED: March 19, 2011 - video added as a preview of NewsFix.)

Before I begin, let me say that I am uncomfortable about this topic. I will still try my best to discuss this deal as best as I can in a professional and understanding manner. After all, I try not to discuss things I am not comfortable doing blog posts or videos on. Yet still, I want to discuss things as best as I can.

I am concerned and confused about this NewsFix deal. NewsFix is seen as a deal to try to get people actually involved in news to tell the news as it happens. It is essentially a lifeline for struggling stations with struggling newscasts. This is a very confusing concept to me. However, it may also be an all-or-nothing deal for stations not perceived as being very well. NewsFix is seen as an anchorless approach to covering the news. A blog entry for the Houston Chronicle even notes that this NewsFix concept has generated mixed reviews and does not think it would sustain itself for the long term.

NOTE: It is important to note that The NewsFix this is merely an experiment that will likely be adjusted in real time. For more information on how this NewsFix may eventually work, you can read this article posted on Variety.

At the end of this blog entry, a link has been posted describing what all NewsFix is about.

To get an idea of NewsFix, here is a preview of what NewsFix is like according to a pilot long ago: NewsFix pilot.

--- NewsFix Concerns ---
TV NewsFix
^ NewsFix... Lee Abhrams' (Chief Innovation Officer of the Tribune Company) answer to fix struggling Tribune newscasts.
(original picture credit: chicagoradioandmedia.com)

Why am I concerned with this? It's simple- this is basically a way of saying, "since you can't cover the news well, we might as well get other people to do what you can't do." Almost like replacing an industrial workforce of human labor with robots. Okay. I have said in my blog entry that I regard ABC 13 here in Houston as having the best news. However, it doesn't mean that I get my news from 39 from time-to-time. It is an unusual message to send in saying that NewsFix will be a cure-all in the sense that you don't need anchors to give the news. To me (and from reading stuff about this NewsFix concept), this is more like a radical way of saying "if a news station can't cut the mustard and get decent ratings, we'd rather have an anchorless newscast with people who actually have passion for what they do." This goes into a field I'm most uncomfortable with- taking a radical viewpoint similar to making critical statements about political or economic matters. A human link, then, between humans and the news that is being produced and marketed to others becomes broken. One thing I've read is that reporters will still be part of the news, but not doing any stand-up news reports or anchoring duties.

Having something like this can only mean that if this NewsFix thing doesn't work the way Tribune wants it to, it just means more complications overall. There's also the beneficial side if this DOES work. It may provide something different and take a different approach to covering news. What becomes broken in all of this is a human link. I mentioned lots of anchors in my blog entry about my favorite on-air Houston news personalities. An anchor is basically the face of a newscast and is the quarterback leading his/her "offense" to win over an audience. You mean by telling me that eliminating the need for anchors will make news better? Again- I can see how this works from a radical perspective, but if this whole NewsFix deal goes straight to Hell and explodes in Tribune's faces, it will be like betting everything... and losing everything. Another analogy- this is like 4th and Goal on the 1-yard line with a chance to win with a touchdown. Can they get that one yard or lose the game trying to get that single yard? I hope for Tribune and KIAH's sakes, it works.

--- The Effects of News Without a Human Element ---
Here is a different perspective. According to Wikipedia's entry on KIAH Channel 39 here in Houston, NewsFix is described as "de-emphasizing anchors and reporters in favor of allowing those involved in a news story to tell it." That's one way to get people a better way to see the news... but it can also be a way to confuse the heck out of people even more. As anyone would know, there are multiple sides of a story. There's probably a corporate side of delivering the news the way corporations want new delivered (which would be a welcome change of pace for most news watchers), but it would just make news even more convoluted and confusing. Not having a definitive human element would just compound news even more and confuse people even more.

And since NewsFix would talk about anchors and reporters like they are worthless nobodies, where would these anchors and reporters go? At least if you have a struggling station with struggling news, at least there are people you can relate to who try to make a product what it is, be it good or bad. At least there are people you can attribute to. Think about it like a sports team- a sports team is good because there are players and personnel that make it great. You have quarterbacks on football teams complimented by star running backs and wide receivers. You have great point guards along with a dominant center. You have a solid pitcher on the mound and a bevy of talented batters that are also good on defense. You are taking away a whole lot by eliminating the need for human element with news in favor of an anchorless approach. I mean, a station has to be VERY poor and desperate for better quality news if you want to do away with anchors and reporters. Why do we have anchors and reporters? In my view, they are the ones who dish this information out to others in an understandable, unbiased, and neutral way.

To me, this is an extremely radical situation that has the makings of a no-win deal. People watch the news, people connect other people to the news, and people deliver the news the way only they can. I can understand the revolutionary concept, but this seems extremely radical and unconventional. If you're going to do away with reporters and anchors, then you'd better have a damn good alternative that people will like and be convinced with. A concept like this basically forces current anchors and reporters to do something else or go to different stations instead. To describe this in a manner I am not comfortable discussing- it's basically like laying off anchors and reporters of a TV station. Whether a station's news show is high-performing or underperforming, at least there are people who try to make the news acceptable and viable to people. At least these are people who work to make such news what it is. At least there are people who instill a certain character of a news show and its newscast. Taking away this human element just gives a newscast even less of an identity. Are you sure you really want to do this?

Let me give another example. People have complained about me on YouTube, saying I talk like I'm retarded or have boring videos. But you know what? At least my material has an identity. I've been seen to people as everything ranging from an idol to a "dickless fag." At least my material has an identity. My online videos have as much of an identity as anyone who posts videos on YouTube of himself/herself and his/her friends doing stupid things on camera. And you can't tell me that replacing anchors and reporters is going to instill an identity people will accept. NewsFix will really work if this product delivers something people will actually be interested in and delivered in a way that it will make people think. What kind of reaction is NewsFix going for- becoming bored with actual anchors and reporters delivering the news? Covering the news in a different way with a different approach? I'm sorry... this just has the makings of "blow up in your face" if this thing fails. Anchors and reporters work too hard to deliver stories the way only they can with their own personality. It adds color and purpose to news. If you get rid of this element, you have... just news. Who is going to understand what is going on if you don't have a public face delivering it? Sure, the news isn't about anchors and reporters, but they help to convey content in an understandable way. A station's news would have to be so underperforming that you have to resort to this method to deliver a spark. This was a reason why I wanted to get into broadcasting and journalism... then focus on blogging and vlogging instead. I gave up plans to pursue a Bachelor's in broadcasting and journalism to pursue being a blogger and making YouTube videos.

--- What Would the Future Hold? ---
This is basically a 50-50 shot in trying to make a newscast better. I consider ABC 13 the best news in Houston, but I usually check out CW 39 news most of the time. Perhaps the reason why I watch CW 39 is for a more casual approach to news. It is casual and acceptable. Maybe it's not strict and serious coverage of the news, but at least it's something a bit more relaxed, yet casual. I admit... I sometimes get a bit depressed following news. You know, someone shot dead, someone arrested for rape, bombing overseas. I sometimes find myself mostly watching weather and sports news because these things actually aren't seriously bad compared to most other stories. Or to say it in a different way, I do still watch regular news stories; I just don't become fixated on serious news issues all the time.

Okay, CW 39 news may not be the best news in Houston. However, I do offer support because I do like watching their news even if it isn't the absolute gretest by a general consensus. I would feel happier knowing that there is a news station I could turn to and watch and enjoy even if it isn't the best according to lots of people. And when I blogged about my favorite news personalities on Houston news, I had a lot to say about a lot of the talent from CW39 ranging from Mia Gradney and Katishia Cosley, "Chief" Keith Monahan, Maggie Flecknoe, and Alex Radow among many others I made note of. These are a few of the many who make CW 39 news great to me. I am not serious about hardcore coverage of the news, and not every newscast has to be localized versions of CNN or FOX News Channel (not intended as an insult to either of these two). You can really kill off a channel's news identity quickly with NewsFix and leave those that TRY to make a newscast better to go look for other jobs or other stations. The impact would be immense. and totally unexpected for such a newscast that has this kind of fate.

On another hand, the ONLY good thing with this is that someone actually considers Houston a viable and important market. So much so that a company decides to test a format in a high-market city like Houston. It may not be a popular or fun idea to have a concept like NewsFix in Houston, but at least it shows that there ARE bigger markets out there than New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, or other such places.

Again, I am totally confused as well as concerned how this NewsFix idea will work, if at all. Maybe you can help. You can read on Blogspot more information on this deal by checking out Mike McGuff's blog right here on Blospot.

How do you feel about this whole NewsFix deal? Comment away and thanks for reading! I've tried my best to explain this professionally and with class. Because otherwise... it just wouldn't be a quality post on John's Blog Space.

UPDATE (Sep. 29, 2010): Want to know what NewsFix is all about? A link to what I recently read will be posted, but before you read, here is a preview of some of the things NewsFix is about:
* The Eye
* The Ears
* The Voice
* Living in our world, not the TV world
* The Attitude
* The Point of View
* We do not celebrate celebrity
* The Focus
* Eccentrical all the way to the bank
* It is not a website
* Honesty
* It is not a comedy show
* We are not "Youth Skewing"
* The Art of TV

And here's a link for more clarification of each point: 15 Things NewsFix Is.

UPDATE (Oct. 16, 2010): Mia Gradney, Steve Simon, and Leticia Juarez all earned Lone Star Emmy awards for their efforts. Part of me says this is a bittersweet way to commend some of CW39's finer talents.

UPDATE (Nov. 30, 2010): NewsFix will debut in January 2011 according to Mike McGuff's blog. It's still a damned shame that a news cast has to be so poor that a faceless newscast have to be made. Why even have a newscast if you don't want anchors doing the news?

UPDATE (Mar. 9, 2010): According to a graphic I just saw as I was watching "Maury" a few minutes ago, NewsFix will apparently debut on March 19. It's sad for me because that means I likely won't hear or see CW39 weekend anchor, Katishia Cosley, not be able to provide her lighthearted style of news. I somehow thought that CW39 was getting better even after getting some Lone Star Emmys. Apparently not.

(UPDATED: 3/19/2011) This, ladies and gentlemen... is your NewsFix preview. If you have about 18 minutes to burn, here is your first look at NewsFix:

What do you think?

So basically, none of my comments meant anything. My mom and I usually watch 39 News since everything moves so quickly. I am no news junkie. Damned shame that this NewsFix deal will kill off 39 News. Just goes to show you that "don't fix what isn't broken" doesn't mean anything these days.

Thank you for reading!

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