Design and share your own TV newscast

What's your beef, chief?

You've got enough beefs about TV news to stock a meat locker. But what would you do differently as, well, the chief?

Triggering the thought was a post-election call to this columnist. Not venting just to hear himself spew, the caller had complaints, including in-studio interviews of analysts, citing KVBC-TV, Channel 3 chatting up poli-sci professor Ken Fernandez. Why, he asked, can't they invite in folks off the street, rather than experts perceived as elitists?

Because trained political observers provide more info and insight born of education and expertise than viewers (this one included), whose subjective, sometimes rambling statements -- live, under tight time limits -- are impractical and best tucked into edited stories and on-air/online polls.

That's why.

But the caller did make a suggestion, not merely a sneer, similar to this column (OK, this column sometimes sneers), which recently outlined a couple of concepts to boost campaign coverage.

How about you? Ideas?

Consider, first, TV's pressure-cooker constraints. Minus commercials, about 22 minutes remain in a 30-minute broadcast for news, sports and weather. Subtract those last two and it shrinks to about 17 minutes for straight news. Stories are timed to the second, most crunched to 30 seconds or less, a few a full minute, major news maybe 90 seconds. A running newsroom joke has a producer telling a reporter that the end of the world is worth two minutes -- if there's decent footage.

Viewers need visuals -- and, yes, those exasperating teasers -- to keep our twitchy trigger fingers off the remote. Decades ago, the average child's attention span was 20 to 30 seconds. Few adults last that long today without quick pacing and strong stimuli.

With the economy -- not a picture-rich subject -- outgunning other stories, what visuals would wow us? (Spare us more foreclosure signs and stock-price boards.) Car accidents with mangled metal heaps and ambulances, and murders with yellow police tape and weeping loved ones, are collar-grabbers. True, they don't affect viewers en masse the way the state Legislature and education do. But what shots, beyond talking heads, stock footage of buildings and text graphics, would keep viewers in rapt attention?

More or less national/international or consumer/health news (with ho-hum pictures of patients, doctors and medical equipment)? Slash weather to highs, lows and five-day forecasts and run it as a crawl? Fine, but those eye-catching maps are channel surfer-stoppers. Increase arts stories? Is there enough interest, or is it too slim a niche? Entertainment pieces and reviews are viewer catnip with glam footage, but is that a responsible decision given the rapidly ticking news clock?

Tell me how you'd assemble a newscast of your own. E-mail or comment online for this column at, under "All of Today's Stories"/Neon section.

You're in charge. How'd you cure your beef, chief?

Contact Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ or 702-383-0256.