Fun_People Archive
2 Dec

Date: Fri,  2 Dec 94 15:03:59 PST
To: Fun_People

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: ShopTalk <ShopTalk@Gremlin.Clark.Net>


                           By Howard Rosenberg
                          The Los Angeles Times

   Television is out of touch with the nation and is in big trouble.
   But the solution is not necessarily to throw out the bums in
   charge. Rather, partisan politics aside, the television industry
   should follow the lead of Republicans and draft a "contract with

   Here are some sample proposals:

        **  Balanced Budgets of Newscasts

   Newscast budgets (the daily schedules of stories) are usually so
   unbalanced, if not flat-out slanted and deficient, that they
   present a distorted view of society, both globally and
   domestically. This is especially true when it comes to coverage of
   most minorities, their appearance in stories being largely limited
   to news connected to violence.

   The cumulative impact of this coverage is significant, teaching
   that mayhem and minorities (code, in this instance, for Latinos and
   African Americans) are synonymous. Hence, these minorities are to
   be feared and despised by the rest of us, and made scapegoats for
   the broader society's problems.

   Overwhelming approval of Proposition 187, the California initiative
   whose provisions to abort most social services to illegal
   immigrants is now in legal limbo, may testify to the scapegoat

   As evidence of how the cumulative fear factor works on white
   suburbanites, I offer the following personal anecdote concerning a
   recent visit to Cleveland.

   While walking alone at midday in an upper middle-class
   neighborhood, I noticed a man approaching me on the sidewalk from
   the opposite direction. Average-looking guy. Average dress. Still,
   I felt an instinctive dart of fright (for all I know, he did, too),
   which vanished only after we had passed each other without

   Why the flash of panic? Only one reason, not a rational one: The
   man was African American.

        **  Anti-Crime Measures

   Curtailment of crime news must accompany the balancing of news

   It's true that street crime is easier and cheaper to cover than
   more important stories that require greater skills and
   sophistication on the part of reporters and greater sustained
   commitment from their bosses, who set priorities.

   Yet there's still no excuse for local stations continuing to lead
   newscasts with up to a half-dozen stories on violent street crimes,
   giving them weight far beyond their true significance in the
   broader context, and creating the false impression that everyone
   everywhere is constantly in jeopardy.

   No wonder that, despite figures showing a decline in violent crime
   in many locales, many Americans continue to regard it as society's
   greatest peril, and that candidates who shout the loudest about
   being "tough" on crime stand the best chance of being elected.

        **  Voluntary Prayer in Prime Time

   You don't have to be Newt Gingrich, a soldier in the religious
   right or even moderately devout to dislike mainstream television's
   traditional dismissal of theology as something either to ridicule
   or ignore. Only rarely do prime-time series, for example, depict
   religious figures as deserving respect-when they're allowed to
   surface at all, that is. In fact, you see more hookers, rapists and
   serial murderers on TV than clerics.

   With religion so prominent in the lives of many Americans, you'd
   think that the major networks would find room on their schedules
   for an occasional drama series revolving around some churchly
   edifice, one that neither celebrates nor denigrates religion, but
   examines its strengths and weaknesses through the lives of ordinary

   If religion is boring, why is it important to so many people?

        **  Promo Reform

   Nothing is more irritating than prime-time news inserts designed to
   tease and entice viewers with incomplete information ("Death Takes
   Hollywood Giant. News at 11"). They must end.

   Even worse, though, are promos that withhold critical, possibly
   life-saving information purely for self-serving reasons.

   For example, is the prime-time magazine series "Dateline NBC" in
   the news business or the suspense business? The answer comes in the
   current issue of TV Guide, where a large ad for Tuesday's program
   carries a photo of a house in flames beneath this shrieking

                "There's a Family Killer in Your House."

   The ad copy describes "an ordinary household product that's caused
   countless fires and deaths. The burning question . . . why haven't
   you been warned?"

   A bigger question: Why isn't "Dateline NBC" warning you now?

   A listing for the program on the next page expands on the ad: "Lea
   Thompson reports the dangers of a household product that can start
   fires due to spontaneous combustion. Included are comments from a
   Seattle fire investigator and some Connecticut families."

   Not included in the ad or TV listing is the name of this supposedly
   lethal household product. That's right, nearly five dozen words
   used as a come-on to hook viewers, but not one identifying this
   "family killer" that you may have in your house even as you read

   If the product is that perilous, "Dateline NBC" should announce its
   name immediately in the cause of saving lives, right? Instead, it
   has enlisted Product X in the cause of boosting the program's
   audience totals during this month's crucial ratings sweeps that
   help determine TV advertising rates. The strategy: By omitting
   possibly critical information, motivate viewers to tune in Tuesday
   for the big disclosure.

   Unless they're incinerated in the meantime.

        **  Term Limits

   Really now, hasn't Rush Limbaugh been around long enough?

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []