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How to Watch TV News Paperback – September 1, 1992
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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.
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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Top customer reviews
News programs are typically filled with a collection of tidbits for a period of time slightly longer than fifteen minutes. The new items are chosen largely on whether they will draw viewers which in turn will draw advertising dollars. The advertising dollars pay the TV news media. So it is not really important what is covered in the news so much as what news will draw ratings.
The content of the news is another issue. In reality, we get the the cliff notes version of the news. We only receive part of the picture. We lack a lot of the background information necessary to make judgements. Because we lack a lot of the information, we are vulnerable to the any bias injected by the news reporter or news station. One of the main points of the book is that we need to read newspapers and magazines to stay informed. Without supplemental information or complete picture, we lack the ability to make an informed judgment. Printed news allows us to select the important stories and eliminate the irrelevant stories. This is an option we don't have with television news.
Postman goes through further scenarios that TV affects. Particularly the chapter that deals with the effects of news on children is enlightening. Even though the material is somewhat dated, Channel One programming is also addressed as part of this discussion. Overall, Postman makes an informed and intelligent statement with this book.
I think that reading this book makes a better TV viewer, may be a better journalist, possibly a better citizen.
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.