Tuesday, June 28

Print Coverage of TV News Pirates

Newsbreakers Get Ink from the NY Times

The New York Times
acknowledged Newsbreakers and it’s unique brand of media criticism this week in an article by Broadcasting & Cable’s editor Mark Lasswell with a headline “Media Activists Who Smile and Throw Cheese.” (BTW, what's B&C's editor doing as a freelancer for the NY Times? Is he shopping for a job as the magazine is on it's last legs?)

Does this mean everyone else will run to do a story since it was in the Times? Because it’s not news unless it appears in the NY Times.

Clamor NOT Glamour
Freelance journalist Brandon Swanson went commando with
Newsbreakers on a live shot raid and features his account in an article published this month in Clamor magazine. His article “Newsbreakers Brand of Media Criticism” includes some quotes from me.

From the article:
Newsbreakers created a flurry in the blogosphere, from college kids titillated by Invisible Suit Guy to media critics wondering what the group was about.
Brad Weaver, broadcast communications instructor at Westmisnter College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, was one of the latter. "They've tapped into the Daily Show kind of thing, " Weaver said. "I love the idea of mocking the news because it's so mockable. There's so much truth in that satire."
Weaver says the Newsbreakers have succeeded in grabbing the public's attention, but questiosn what they're going to do with it, if they're going to use the opportunity to stiumulate the debate and take it in a different direction. "If they're just going to hijack live shots that's cute and novel," Weaver said.
"But are they going to go any further?"

Swanson interviewed me earlier this year after he found my blog and my fondness for what the group was attempting to do as media critics. He was interested in why I thought Hunter Thompson would give his blessing to Newsbreakers.

I guess I was the only someone he could find in academia who would react supportively and hopefully to the Newsbreakers shenanigans.

For the record, while I appreciate the Newbreakers’ methods and madness, I fear the group's message is muddled and unclear. Ordinary citizens and even TV insiders are scratching their heads wondering why they do this.

I was hoping the story would get picked up by something a bit more mainstream (Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Playboy, Popular Mechanics- LOL).

Clamor is marketed as “the revolution of everyday life.” After visiting the magazine’s website I’m wondering if I’ll end up on some government “watch this freak” list (LOL).

The Clamor article came out well before the NY Times piece.

Attempted Prank Against Pittsburgh’s WPXI
While I was out of town, Newsbreakers attempted to punk WPXI-TV. The PG had a write up about the event characterizing it as
unfunny and meaningless.

Instead of disrupting a live shot, a Newsbreaker armed with a camcorder confronted veteran reporter Stu Brown. They asked him why his station only covered crime and death and destruction. The Newsbreaker's web site release included the headline "RANDOM ACTS OF CHAOS DOMINATE LOCAL NEWS; ACCOUNTABILITY SCARCE."

When I defended Brown for only being a foot soldier carrying out the orders of his evil overlords, Newsbreakers “Buck Owens” responded with the following in an e-mail to me:

“I know what you're saying about Stu's role as an employee. Our point is this: Just doing your job is not good enough. Journalists have an ethical duty to advocate for responsible editorial decision making, even if you're the lowest person on the totem pole. In an albeit twisted way, we are trying to inspire people working in TV news to feel empowered to speak up and feel empowered. This the "inside-out" part of our mission."

That's better! This is a clear, meaningful explanation of the Newsbreakers mission. But the problem with the "inside-out" part is the assumption that the people working in TV news are journalists. Are they ethical, hardcore journalism, committed to truth and fairness individuals? I bet they're stuck in a routine and culture of stealing stories out of the newspaper and chasing scanner chatter to fill news holes and what bleeds leads the news?

I seriously doubt if Newbreakers has inspired any TV reporters to stand up to their feeble-minded, paper pushing middle managers and demand a return to ethics and integrity in the newsroom. Despite their claims to be journalists engaged in a noble career, for most it's turned into a job. They're much more consumed with commitment to families, mortgages, medical insurance benefits, etc.

I very concerned that issue of media criticism never comes through the stunts, confrontations and theatrics. I love the novelty and public spectacle of Newsbreakers, but its members must also engage the public and clearly communicate the message. I’m convinced people watching these pranks or viewing the Newsbreakers video clips online don't get it. Are people even bothering with going to the Newsbreakers web site?

The TV news viewers should be the target audience for this media criticism campaign. Promote media literacy and get regular people to recognize the "lameness & sameness" of local news. Promote critical thinking and analysis with the people watching. Get them to recognize how "TV lies" and distorts and fails to serve the community.

That will hit local news operations hard.


Patrick said...

Congrats on being published! We all know how much you love Newsbreakers! I'm going to try to watch the Stu Brown video when I get home from work.

Poor Stu... I think he's probably the worst possible target for Newsbreakers, too. Oh well!

Brad Weaver, BC Instructor said...

Thanks for the feedback, Pat!
Now if I can get the new capstone people blogging!

Laura K. said...

some of the new kids are blogging! im still waiting for Ian to update! lol ! and Julie! what happened to her???

Liz Farry said...

Wow mr. weaver...it took me a very long time to read that whole post. you should write a book.

But I am getting some real life lessons on news ethics here.

Much more on that to come...

Buck "Lucky" Owens said...

A-ha, Professor Weaver, you've fallen into our trap!

We've given you a peg by which to write your own interpretation of today's TV news landscape. And by doing that, you've spread media literacy further than if we had attempted to do all the heavy lifting ourselves. Where we have ignored clarity, we've payed close attention to novelty. I submit that this approach has done more to promote a dialogue about the sad state of affairs in today's newsrooms than if we had set out on a more earnest course.

If it is true what you say about the dire state of the modern news worker's soul, I offer this: Our work needs no justification other than that which is inherent in the act of live shot sabotage. In other words, if they're all spineless company clones, they're getting what they deserve. I don't happen to think they all are or do.

I'll leave you with one vacuous, self-congratulatory closing thought. It was Toto, a mere mut, who pulled back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.

All the best,

Buck "Lucky" Owens