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Speed demon ‘Action News’ out of step

Officially, they’re “Action News.”

Realistically, more “Fraction News.”

Overstating a bit, yes. (Why wreck a good rhyme?)

Yet the point — “Action News” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13 crams in more stories per newscast and spends less time on most compared to all its competitors — remains true.

Monitoring a random night last week — watching KVVU-TV, Channel 5 at 5:30 p.m., and KSNV-TV, Channel 3, KLAS-TV, Channel 8 and 13’s Actioneers at 6 p.m. — finds these totals:

Scoring highest on low-story count is Channel 8 with 11, followed by News-3 and Fox-5 tied with 12. “Action News” roadrunners beep-beeped! through 21 stories, which — excepting a couple of longer local stories about coping with spiraling gasoline prices and a trash recycling pilot program by Republic Services — makes it more a Vegas version of the Headline News Network.

Given the swirling currents of change rushing through the news biz, that makes less sense by the day.

Backgrounder: Conceptually, “Action News” is more than a macho moniker, but a philosophy of news presentation (hilariously lampooned in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”). Created in 1970 by Philadelphia’s WFIL (now WPVI), it was a response to a competitor, WKYC, that in 1965 pioneered the “Eyewitness News” concept, which expanded from anchors just reading the news and sent reporters out into the field to “eyewitness” events.

“Action” upped the ante, its style tightly formatted to the clock to separate it from the still comparatively stately, lower-count “Eyewitness.” Goosing the pacing and capping stories at 90 seconds to squeeze more in, “Action” gave news a case of high blood pressure that persists to today — when news, via the Internet, Twitter and mobile devices, moves even quicker for generations turning less and less to the tube for information.

(Recapping the 2010 media landscape, the Pew Research Center found viewership for local affiliates tumbling for the fourth year in major news slots.)

Most stations — including Channel 13 — take advantage of the new-media landscape, using their websites for quick-hit news, having reporters send tweets during stories in progress and feeding news through cell phones. That makes sense — as does alternative thinking for TV newscasts themselves, which should now take the opposite tactic to provide what the frenzy of new-media headlines, tweets and links don’t — in-depth reporting that goes beyond the “what” to address the “why” of the news.

Examples: Channel 8 spending more time on bills about to die in the Legislature, while 13 also squeezed in dog-bites-child and police-officer-terminated stories. News-3 examining genetic cancer links while 13 shoehorns in stolen rock art and no bids on the sale of the house of Michael Jackson’s doctor.

That’s not to say those stories aren’t newsworthy, that Channel 13 didn’t include shorter, less explanatory stories on the dead legislative bills on its main newscast or the 4 and 5 p.m. run-up newscasts, or that it doesn’t do solid “You Ask, We Investigate” work.

Yet in an info-glut world, this headline-esque format — which once represented top-speed news — can’t compete with new media for pure story volume.

That threatens to dilute the power and relevance of the “Action” faction to a fraction.

(Why skip a good rhyme?)

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

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