TV stations give little attention to local politics


Beyond Obamamania and Palin-Obsessive Disorder lay politics suffering from tele-anemia. Is there a doctor in the newsroom?

This historic presidential campaign has electrified the electorate and local TV's attention, heightened by candidate stops in Nevada, is a coverage no-brainer. Statewide races?

Let's spot-check. Bearing down on E Day, three half-hour newscasts on KTNV-TV, Channel 13, KVBC-TV, Channel 3 and KLAS-TV, Channel 8, sampled at random recently, divvied up election stories this way: Channel 13, two stories on the prez campaign, one on local races, but hey, as a consolation, there were 14 political ads; Channel 3, three prez stories, no local, 12 ads; Channel 8, three prez stories, no local, two "in-their-own words" spiels from local candidates (admirable, but it's more free ad time than news coverage) and 10 ads.

Some stories are tagged for selected newscasts so coverage fluctuates, but the pattern doesn't. Beyond linchpins like "Nevada Week in Review" and Vegas' Great White Shark of Political Journalism, Jon Ralston, story count is fairly dismal day to day. It's not that they aren't there. It's that they're barely there.

Granted, as compelling TV goes, yapping-head interviews with charisma-free local candidates in their potted plant-lined offices don't pack the visceral wallop of the Obama Oracle of Hope Traveling Circus or The John McCain My Friends Express or a Hailin' Palin rally. But they're of close-to-home importance.

Given limited airtime per newscast -- though there are hours of newscasts per day -- detailed reports on complex local issues is impractical. But next time, how about an abbreviated local variation of CNN's invaluable "Truth Squad," picking apart candidate charges and countercharges for distortions, exaggerations and factual omissions? Or bumper graphics outlining voting records, positions, candidate quotes and ballot initiatives? Or just an extra story now and then at the expense of an accident report, teaser and this-warm-front-meets-that-cold-front weather blather? Otherwise, the ads are the de facto coverage.

It's time for TV change we can believe in, my friends.

Random Viewing, News 3-Style: Alicia Jacobs in her "Stage 3" segment, shifting from the murders of Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother to a story about the Luxor's Tacos and Tequila restaurant: "There's simply no appropriate transition into this next story." Maybe because a double-murder story (which has since become a triple murder, tragically, after the discovery of her nephew's body) belongs in the news portion, not the entertainment report? ... A teaser to a story about people busted for soliciting sex on Craigslist included a visual of a light being turned off in an apartment window. Ooooh, how romantic. ...

Here's Kendall Tenney forced to utter this pearl of newswriting as an intro to Tom Hawley's report on Interstate 15 girder construction: "Long ago it was Beatlemania. Today, it's girder mania." Congrats, Kendall, on winning our Refraining From Rolling Your Eyeballs Award. She girds you, yeah, yeah, yeah ...

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

 

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