Reporting and Reading

The most recent kerfuffle among those eager to be offended is the local television news anchors who read a statement about “real” and “fake” news.

By itself, not much to get upset about. But among the Gotcha Group, this was clear evidence of a capitalist conspiracy, the evils of ownership concentration, and dramatic infringement on the sovereignty of journalists. Because, you see, the TV anchors at all of the broadcaster’s nearly 200 other television stations all read exactly the same statement.

Shocking. Outrageous. Unheard of and unprecedented.

Except for virtually every evening, twice an evening. When the anchors do precisely the same thing: they read a script.

In the old, pre-digital days this “coincidence” among news anchors might never have come to light. Today, though, in the age of easy-aggregation and rapid dissemination, the parroting of a corporate text was quickly exposed.

And, admittedly, it was at once funny and ironic. But hardly surprising.

One website wordlessly mocked the identical readings by placing dozens of anchors side-by-side, in a Hollywood Squares-style format, as though reciting in unison. For all to see.

News readers reading “news,” or at least, a script. Maybe more accurately, actors without SAG cards reading scripts.

This – the newscast – folks, is not improv. TV anchors are reading a text composed more often than not by someone else.

Doubling the public outrage was the fact that the media group’s owner is a corporation known to be conservative. One has to wonder, would the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing have been so vigorous and wrought had the owner been liberal? Or, for that matter, center-of-the-road?

Responding to the public clamor, local anchors both got their backs up and their journalist bonafides out and in front.

The act, one aspiring-to-be-famous duo claimed, was personally offensive and was (they implied) read under duress.

Wait a minute. The news readers are complaining about having to read? As opposed to what? Spinning plates atop sticks? Acrobatic tricks?

Walter Cronkite, the long-revered anchor for CBS, abandoned his role as a journalist once he took the anchor seat. He, like all others in a similar chair, intoned the text placed before him. In the staccato. Style so familiar. To all. Television news. Viewers.

Walter read the news. He didn’t make it or report it. That was someone else’s job.

Maybe the embarrassment felt by the TV news anchors was that, in case no one was aware, the emperor has no clothes and what the emperor is doing is reading. No more.

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