OPINION | Everyone just needs to get over the outrage over live crosses from court!
There’s been a lot of complaints recently about TV reporters doing live crosses from a court house 8 - 24 hours after the event they are talking about took place. It’s just part of making news digestible and entertaining for the masses… and there’s nothing wrong with that.
TV is a medium that seeks to entertain its audience and that includes news bulletins and breakfast TV. Tom Steinfort, the newsreader on Channel 9’s TODAY show came under fire from TV Blackbox’s very own Kevin Perry this morning for reporting from the Court almost 24 hours after George Pell was sentenced to 6 years in prison after being found guilty of sexual offences against two young boys in 1996 and 1997 in St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne.
Perry took aim at Steinfort on Twitter, saying;
“@tomsteinfort standing outside Melbourne Court House at 5.30am reporting LIVE on things that happened yesterday…. why?”
Steinfort saw the tweet and quickly fired back, saying;
“So if there’s a flood we shouldn’t report there the next day? Or from Canberra the day after a leadership spill? These cases are big news events of national interest with sentencing/appeals still to play out, so we’re here giving viewers the best coverage. Thanks for watching”
So if there’s a flood we shouldn’t report there the next day? Or from Canberra the day after a leadership spill? These cases are big news events of national interest with sentencing/appeals still to play out, so we’re here giving viewers the best coverage. Thanks for watching— Tom Steinfort (@tomsteinfort) March 13, 2019
Tom has a point and although there’s a big difference between a flood and a court case it’s time everyone accepted the fact TV News is a form of entertainment!
The makers of the very first newscasts knew they had to entertain as well as inform audiences, even though those early bulletins might seem boring compared to today’s whiz-bang graphics and live crosses. Even back then they still erected sets, wore suits and put on make-up. If it was just about information we’d only have a presenter simply reading out the stories in front of a plain wall.
Today, audiences want news that is easily digestible. If someone is reading a story from a desk for too long viewers find it boring. A live cross adds a bit of entertainment with a change of scenery, even if that means reporting from a location where nothing is happening.
You might not like it, but it’s part of what keeps viewers coming back night after night (and before you talk about diminishing audiences please remember news programs usually fill out most of the top 10 slots in the daily rankings report from OzTam).
In a recent opinion piece for TV Blackbox, guest contributor Brett Debritz argued it is much more satisfying to see a reporter in the field actually doing something than;
“a “live cross” during the 5pm or 6pm news to a reporter who is standing like a goose outside a courtroom four hours after something happened there.
And while I completely agree with this view, it’s interesting it’s that court house example people keep coming back to. While it’s fair enough to say the reporter standing outside cannot possibly get any new information in that location about an event that happened hours earlier, we all just might have to learn to let it go. It’s a little bit of smoke and mirrors that adds a sense of importance to the news and makes it easier to watch.
And is that so bad?