Why KING5 News is forcing me to switch to an alternative

May 7, 2008

I’ve been a loyal and regular viewer of Seattle’s KING5 (NBC) news for many years–way back to the Bullitt sister’s days. It has consistently been, in my mind anyway, the class act among local news options which include KOMO (ABC), KIRO (CBS) and KCPQ (Fox).

This despite hiring a reporter who while working at another TV station engaged in very unethical behavior in my opinion and forced me to do the unthinkable–stop an interview with my client part way through and threaten to prevent it from continuing if the line of questioning continued. Still I watched.

I even watched through the often ludicrous “investigative reports” that so obviously mimicked the news magazines. The poor reporters were increasingly desperate to uncover the great scandals, consumer abuses, threats to the environment, whatever, that required them to engage in the most embarrassing forms of “gotcha journalism” I’ve ever seen. How many times do we need to see a reporter following an unwilling interview subject to his car, the camera tight on him, while the reporter in the frame continually yells “Why won’t you talk to us sir?” I wish some journalism student would do a study on how many times this little drama has played out over the past few years. But even this charade didn’t stop me from watching.

But “Get Jesse” finally has. OK, I’ll admit that watching Seinfeld was often painful for me because my stomach would turn with the incredibly embarrassing situations that George Costanza would get himself in. And my stomach turns in the same way with Get Jesse. Jesse Jones, a big African-American reporter no doubt has some good reporter skills, but are hidden by a very aggressive, angry demeanor and a most annoying way of signing off his reporters by saying “JESSE Jones, King 5 News.” Now they have given him his own segment in which “gotcha journalism” is carried to the most degrading depths imaginable. On the flimsiest pretenses, he will make a huge drama out somebody’s complaint. Of course, what they want is to stimulate viewers to complain so they have fodder for these kinds of stories.

My complaint is in large part the abuse (see the lasik story discussion as an example) of those people victimized by this desperate need to entertain. I mean, why is it always those complaining who are in the right?

But my deeper concern is this as continuing evidence for the way old media is dealing with the loss of audience crisis. They go further and further away from traditional, credible journalism and ever deeper into infotainment. They are desperate to find and hold an audience in order to support their ad rates. Understandable. But until they see that these extreme measures such as Get Jesse are counter productive to building an audience, they will continue this steep slide into melodrama. I think we need to find a way to let them know that this kind of “journalism” drives us away. I’m switching channels and encouraging those of you who agree with my concern to do the same.


12 Responses to “Why KING5 News is forcing me to switch to an alternative”

  1. Mark Forstneger Says:

    I could not agree more. Same story here in Chicago. If they’re not pandering to fear and emotions (I literally used to write down how many times newscasts on WMAQ-TV, our NBC affiliate, used “shocking,” “controversial,” “emotional,” “worst nightmare,” “disturbing” and other words intended to manipulate viewers) or broadcasting thinly-veiled infotainment that’s obviously targeted at certain demographics, than they’re trumpeting the latest shooting, fire, robbery or car accident that frankly have on impact on most viewers lives. Oh and let’s not forget the “hard news” that I already know because I read it online hours –if not a day– ago. TV news is an irrelevancy. I continue to marvel at how Chicago supports five English language television news operations when they all show THE SAME STORIES.

    I take no pleasure in watching journalism fall into a hole. But like you, my life will go on without these bozos.

  2. Giles Says:

    “My complaint is in large part the abuse (see the lasik story discussion as an example) of those people victimized by this desperate need to entertain. I mean, why is it always those complaining who are in the right?”

    I think you said it all right there – why is it that you are in the right? Some of us like Jesse Jones and his signature sign-off. Perhaps a little tolerance on your part might be needed. Enjoy the show for what it is and disregard the points you don’t like.

  3. gbaron Says:

    I’m glad to hear there is someone who likes it. I find your suggestion that I should enjoy the “show” interesting. Might be an age and culture gap here–I still tend to view newscasts not as a show but as journalism. And that is my point–they have become “shows” and need to be treated as that when the only decisions to be made revolve around how to draw an audience and entertain them to keep them tuned in. I will probably continue to have a hard time enjoying that show.

  4. […] is the case today with KOMO 4 News in Seattle. Like Gerald says, it’s annoying to turn on the news and just know you’re being spoon-fed a huge pile of […]

  5. Heidi Says:

    Jesse Jones is a wonderful person!! He actually got my dryer fixed and got me compensation for money I had to spend at a laundry facility! He is NOT mean or annoying…..He does what he does and gets results…….Perhaps it is that YOU are wishing YOU were as popular and well known as he is!!!!

    I agree with the new commercial for Get Jesse…….JESSE ROCKS!!


    We used to watch Jesse’s sign-off, and found it ridiculous, but charming. His foray into consumer advocacy, however, misses its mark. I imagine he’s a cool guy, and well-intentioned. That doesn’t mean that “Get Jesse” upholds the standards of journalism I’d like to respect out of a news institution. It all started in this market with Q-13 and that alien Leslie woman and it all slid downhill from there. In every town I’ve ever lived in, I’ve always depended on the NBC affiliate, believing faithfully, but perhaps wrongly, that their news was the “class act.” “Get Jesse” should be one of those 1/2 hour shows like evening magazine, and not passed off as news.

  7. Steve Says:

    Put me in the group that likes him. Plus, now we have an issue and might actually be contacting him…

    As for his sign-off – don’t forget, he has a bit of a dramatic pause right before he says it… long enough that you know what is coming, and can say it with him — “JESSE Jones…” 🙂

  8. Gerald Says:

    Yeah, but why does he have to look so angry?

  9. Heidi Says:

    He is the MAN

  10. Dave Nelson Says:

    During the floods of last week, did anybody see Mr. Jones in a news video standing in front of a Arlington resturant called “Obrien Manor” or the “Turkey House”, and picking up a sandbag, looking in the front window, and then moving to the newspaper dispensers at the front of the building. He was waist deep in water, and I believe it aired on thursday afternoon, or evening. If you have a link to the video saved, could you please post it?

  11. Russell Says:

    Well, It certainly has taken you a long time to come to this conclusion. Journalism is over. It now is all about entertainment and I have been bemoaning this fact for many years. “Get Jess” is a joke and should enjoy the same place on the news stands as the tabloid magazines.
    As for your comment that you can no longer watch king 5, well what else is there? It has been many years that I have just assumed that they were all the same station anyway. Channel 4,5 and 7. I happen to be a pretty good channel flipper and it has been not just once but many, many times that each of the three channels are running the exact same story at the exact same time for the exact same 60 seconds on the very same story. They have three different reporters reading the same story!!!!!!! Whats that all about??? Now with the newspapers falling by the wayside where are we to turn for in depth independant true news reporting? NPR has been a breath of fresh air and has great reports on many subjects but on a local level I have little or no respect for the news agancies. It is a sad truth that news has really turned into “is the head dead yet” style “dirty laundry” journalism.

  12. CK Says:

    As a former newspaper reporter for a weekly paper, I found it interesting when the TV news was at the same places, interviewing the same people about some tragic event and I would watch the news that night to discover they had the location wrong, wrong river (the sign with correct name of river was behind the TV reporter’s back while on air :), wrong names or spellings for people interviewed and the list goes on.

    I realize they don’t have 1-4 days like I do to put together a story, but it was so inaccurate it made me sick to think people watched the news and believed it. I have never trusted TV news since.

    The three major problems I see with all types of media reporting is inaccurate information, biased reporting and sensationalism. The public just wants the straight truth, with accurate facts and we are tired of reporters blowing stories out of proportion and exaggerating the truth.

    The online sources are faster; but ask yourself—are they even less accurate because they are researched, written, edited and posted within hours or even minutes of the actual event???

    If I want to know the truth, I do my own research and fact checking.

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