Waiting for a journalist to say “No News Tonight”

In his review of NBC’s decision to run the Cho tapes (we agree), Jack Shafer concludes by pining for the days of yore:

In his book The Language of New Media, scholar Allen Bells reports how the BBC responded in 1930 when it was confronted with a “shortage of news deemed worthy to broadcast.” The Beeb didn’t dress up yesterday’s broadcast with new comments from another expert. Instead, the announcer would admit, “There is no news tonight.”

If only today’s broadcasters were as honest.

Actually, the Beeb retains a similar approach to the one Shafer cites– I heard it first hand when I was in London during the July 7th bombings listenting to the radio on a bus going from Stansted to Heathrow. Early in the afternoon, the radio “news reader,” after police and Tony Blair press conferences and a final summary of the morning’s events, signed off and switched to music. Initially, I was jonesing for more news and searched the dial in vain. Eventually, I took a deep breath and watched the countryside and managed fine without news. A feeling of calm and control that carried the day– at least away from downtown.I’m not sure that that would’ve been the case had reporters continued looking for something to say.

PS: Has anyone else noticed that a search for Shafer Slate produces his column on the Berkman Center’s 2005 Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility conference–one that I enjoyed a great deal (and that some of my employer’s funds paid for.)Fifteen Twenty-seven months later, good criticism is worth a second look:

“Open source” journalism, in which readers and bloggers help set the news agenda for newspapers, was promoted as a tonic for what ails the press. Reporters were encouraged to regain the lost trust of readers by blogging drafts of their stories, their notes, and even their taped interviews so other bloggers could dissect and analyze them for fairness…. In the rush to define the new new thing and celebrate its wonders, the human tendency to oversell kicks in. …gardening blogs, tech blogs, shopping blogs, radio blogs, video blogs, and blog blogs all possess great potential. But we owe it to this prodigious new communications form not to demand too much too soon.


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