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.