New ideas necessary to rescue old media

Radical is the new normal.

Or better be.

Media mavens — not just this media heathen — frequently fret over news consumers (including newspaper readers) abandoning us mainstreamers for the Internet, social media and new technology.

As local newscasts slowly suffocate their futures by breathing in the past — Frick-and-Frack anchors, “Eyewitness”/”Action”/”Where News Comes Wherever” reports, weathercasting windbags and enough stories crammed into one broadcast to blow your brain fuse — we wonder: Is anyone up for trading 20th-century complacency for 21st-century risk-taking? The kind that would cause their consultants conniptions?

Mediaology previously tossed out some options. Here’s another: contextual newscasts. Five minutes of up-top headlines widening into in-depth explorations of three or four top stories — a daily, mini-“60 Minutes.”

What retro ‘tudes smother local news? Mediaology last week tracked stations’ cuckoo-for-story-count obsession over random half-hour evening newscasts, minus commercial time. Tallies, including weather and sports: Channel 8, 17 stories; Channel 3, 15 stories; Channel 5, 18 stories; Channel 13, (a whopping!) 25 stories — in approximately 23 minutes.

Breathless, baby-kins: Same stories re-regurgitated on four channels five or six times daily, stations straitjacketed into the we-cover-it-’cause-they-cover-it! mentality that reduces journalism to parroting, aiming to be the Station of Record in an online era of news sources that’s more or less … infinite. True, local news is a more exclusive commodity than national headlines, but often breaks first on local newspaper and station Web sites, triggering blogging and tweeting before the news ever makes it to air. Given that and repetitive bombardment, wouldn’t viewers benefit more from stories that are contextualized rather than counted?

Who’s got the brass to break from knee-jerk we’re-here-we’re there-we’re-everywhere! news, leaving President Obama’s overseas jaunts to loop over and over on the 24-hour cable cycle, relegating crimes/accidents du jour to graphics, slashing weathercasts — weathercaster-free!– to screen crawls (sacrilege? who cares?), junking short disposable stories in favor of long impactive pieces?

That night, Channel 3 turned in reports on UMC’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the crime-fighting Operation Falcon and locals urging lawmakers to focus on health care that could’ve delved even deeper without a Chicago cemetery scandal, Michigan Amtrak crash and D.C. flu confab, all found elsewhere/anywhere/everywhere.

Ditto Channel 8’s reports on Southern Nevada Water Authority spending habits and sex offender tracking if past plane crash investigations were reassigned to the up-top headlines. Or Channel 13’s preview of the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute and a story on Nevada cities not always held responsible for accidents caused by municipal inspection failures, if they subtracted me-too! takes on the prez-pope meeting and a London film studio fire.

Time for old media to break their patterns before new media breaks their backs.

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

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