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When self-promotion creeps into lead stories

The opening headlines of any newscast those lines they read while the music is still playing should invariably flag the most important stories of the day. There have been two instances recently when that did not happen, under different but worrisome circumstances.

Two nights ago, in the opening to its newscast , the NTV Evening Newshour promoted the participation of OZ FM deejays in the Tim Hortons Camp Day event. OZ FM, of course, is a sister company of NTV.

Now it could be argued that the Tim Hortons event was the news story but we all know better than that.

If the deejays hadn't been there, it likely wouldn't have been a story at all.

I won't dwell on this point. Everyone in the industry knows there is a cost attached when you allow self-promotion to infiltrate the top of the newscast. Simply stated, newscasts gradually build trust equity' with their audiences. And self-promotion like this erodes that equity.

I do a fair bit of surfing between competing newscasts and may have missed something in the past, but this is the first time I've observed NTV engage in cross-promotion right off the top.

While I am not so naïve to suggest that NTV shouldn't indulge, this kind of promotion belongs at the back end of the newscast and should not be presented among the most important headlines of the day.

Something slightly similar, though more subtle, happened about two weeks ago over at CBC Here & Now. Right off the top, they boasted and I paraphrase here that "our story from last night has had an impact the province will replace satellite phones on the Trans Labrador Highway."

Labrador residents had complained that satellite phones, provided by the province for emergency use by drivers braving the Trans Labrador Highway, had seen better days and were no longer reliable. The next day, Transportation Minister John Hickey announced a "review" into the situation and that "necessary improvements" will be made.

The problem? In its rush to take credit for spurring government to action, Here & Now neglected to mention that we are just six months away from an election.

Now I am not saying that the satellite phones are not necessary or important. I think they are essential. But in the weeks ahead, there will be many more special interest groups coming forward with valid problems and issues that need "fixing" (read: money).

Many of them will receive coverage on Here & Now.

And many will get what they are asking for. Squeaky wheels get greased quickly during an election, especially when government is forecasting a surplus.

Based on the precedent above, this means Here & Now will preface such news by saying "our story on the (insert name here) has resulted in action from the province" instead of "government is spending your money to buy votes".

I seriously don't expect this to happen. But it bears mention nonetheless

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  • Jim
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    NTV are always kissing the business community's behind (Places to Go is a prime example and they call it news ) and tooting their own horn (or OZFM or Newfoundland Herald) is how they operate.

    The new stories (I use that word lightly) are always too long, often one-sided and a good many items they do produce would never cut it at any more credible station.

    Yet how NTV wins the ratings over CBC is beyond me.