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How to Watch TV News Paperback – September 1, 1992

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Academic Postman ( Amusing Ourselves to Death ) and television newsman Powers (of Fox Five in New York) offer a brief, helpful analysis of America's most popular news source. In a sober but accessible style, the authors address theoretical issues, such as the difficulty of portraying nonvisual abstractions (for example, a new scientific theory) on televison, and describe the selling of the news through techniques such as the "tease" and the formation of an on-air "pseudo-family." They reveal how stories originate--often from newspapers and press releases--and show how difficult it is for harried reporters to provide substantive news. The most provocative chapter analyzes the inherent biases and limitations in both language and pictures. The authors conclude with several none-too-radical pieces of advice, including the suggestion that parents seek ways to have schools train children in watching TV news. Regrettably, the authors don't discuss the role of TV criticism or what television news does well. Further, the book would have been much richer if Powers had included anecdotes from his career and reflected from his own experience on in-house decision-making.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From AudioFile

This little manual undertakes to equip the user to watch broadcast news intelligently, if at all, and with realistic expectations. The authors aim to make activity out of what is too often passivity. Their approach is carefully reasoned, rather than emotional. This book is no more intended to be read aloud for dramatic effect than an automobile repair manual. On the other hand, being a model of clarity and not dependent on charts or graphics, it works perfectly well in audio. Jeff Riggenbach's reading is ideal: very clear, comfortably paced and objective in tone. This reviewer urges this book on every adult in America. J.N. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1st edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140132317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140132311
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio Cassette Verified Purchase
After being almost 3 years in the business of dealing professionally with the press, both printed and electronic, I would say that most of the things that you read in this amazing book seem somehow 'obvious'. Yet, it is what's 'obvious' that passes unattended. It is because even the professionals in this business, (actually especially the professionals in this business) operate without questioning the very principals of the trade: 'What's 'news' really? Why choosing this particular form of presenting them on TV? What is it that we are aiming for? What's hidden behind?
I think that reading this book makes a better TV viewer, may be a better journalist, possibly a better citizen.
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Format: Paperback
Truly eye-opening and fascinating. I read the first edition quite a few years back and eagerly read the newly revised edition that addresses the web and how it further affects the devolving quality of America's television news programming. It's astounding how little we truly know about something that is such an integral part of our everyday lives. The world of news can be overwhelming, and as a medium can't always be trusted. This book illuminates its inner workings in an easy and interesting way. You will never "watch" news the same way again after reading this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great effort on the part of Neil Postman and Steve Powers. Postman is a media scholar who has written numerous books, and Powers is a journalist who knows first hand how media works. These two authors have the guts to take on the news media, a system made up of the biggest pack of liars outside of the Democratic Party. This book is a no-holds barred look at how news is manufactored and presented to the public. The book begins by defining news and then presents detailed accounts of how news is created. The book also looks at how commercials work in the scheme of things. There are also sections on television in the court room and an examination of how language and pictures can be used to distort news.
I found three items of particular interest in this book. The first was how the authors looked at commercials. As most know, the main aim of television is to sell. As cigarettes are a delivery device for nicotine, so television is for commercials. Since most of us have seen thousands of commercials, we have stopped viewing them objectively. This book has examined commercials, and it delivers a stinging indictment of them. Most effective is the view, presented by the authors, that commercials are a form of religious parable. A parable teaches people how to live the good life. The commercial, like a parable, has a beginning, a definition of a problem in the middle, and then a solution to the problem at the end. Unlike real life, the commercial teaches us that the answers to all problems are fast and easy, and are readily available at the local store. Hard work and patience mean nothing in the advertising world.
Secondly, the book also looks at how corporations have taken over televison and turned news programs into a source of profit.
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You think you watch the news to learn of events; however, news "products" are designed to (1) sell commercials and (2) tell you what to think. There is no coherent way to present complex topics in 2 minutes. This is not a new phenomenon but was in place at its inception. Neil details this as an insider. Enjoy
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How to Watch TV News is an excellent resource for the budding media theorist or the person who wants to know why New Orleans and the Iraq War do not get the same airtime as a news anchor saying "Keep $#&* that chicken!"

The argument is simple - we need to learn HOW to watch TV. The understanding and properly contextualizing media (TV or otherwise) is not a given. It is not inherent to our DNA to know why some stories are presented in certain ways and others not at all.

The book exposes the danger and resulting vulnerability we all face when engaging with our televisions in an uninformed way.
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Format: Paperback
Powers is the real deal--he's been in the news business forever--and he also knows how to explain and to look behind and beyond the obvious. Great read, and truly informative. You won't watch TV the same way again.
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Format: Paperback
I read Postman's 'Amusing Ourselves to Death' as an undergrad years ago, and I got a lot out of it. This book seemed promising, but it would benefit from a more coherent structure. A better, representative title might be 'How News is Made,' because the first two-thirds focuses on the business and production of news media. The last three chapters finally get down to critical news viewing, and I wish they had been expanded to constitute more of the bulk of this book.
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Format: Paperback
An academic and a TV journalist combine forces to take on the most powerful and pervasive force in our daily lives and dissect its influence in a way no one's thought of before. Who'd think that a society so bombarded with information would be the least informed in the world? This book explains how-- and why. And it's quite prescient, having been written a few years ago, in showing how "news' and "entertainment" combine to form something that tastes great but is less filling. It's worth a read for anyone who suspects that "they" are not telling us what we need to know or want to know-- but what "they" decide" we should know. This is the Rosetta Stone of the Infotainment Age.
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