The Business of Broadcast & Bodies

Broadcast journalism is incredibly competitive and holds journalists to impossibly high standards–especially where women and appearances are concerned.

In theory, the goal of a news organization is to inform consumers completely and accurately. However, in broadcast, the term consumer is treated a little differently; or rather, the news organization doesn’t just produce news, they try to market a product. The product is entertainment, and the vehicle of providing entertainment is the newscasters.

Broadcast journalists are constantly pressured for perfection–and of course, they constantly fall short. There are endless videos of news “fails” online–from the brad-new intern anchor swearing his first time on air, to that weather woman inadvertently drawing a vaguely phallic shape as she explains the course of a storm, these videos garner hundreds of thousands of views. People love to laugh at others’ mistakes. These mistakes are caught on camera, and will follow the journalists for the rest of their lives–punishing them long after they’ve been dismissed from the newsroom where the folly occurred.

Sometimes it’s not even a journalist’s mistake that gets them in trouble, it’s their face. Or their voice, or their outfit, or their body type. For the most part, women have the most focus placed on their appearance. One heavy-set local anchor was harassed via email for being a “bad role model” and not being “a suitable example for… young people”–as though it is her job to be a shining example of perfection for an entire community. [source] Let’s ignore the fact that the angry viewer has no right to judge anyone’s health by merely looking at them, and turn to the more relevant point: where is the equitable email for any of her male colleagues at her local station? Where is the equitable situation for any male journalist in the country, in the history of television?

Women journalists are under constant scrutiny–viewers love pregnant newscasters, but they better lose the baby weight fast. Producers love the young vibrant energy female anchors give off, but at the first sign of a wrinkle, you’ll be replaced. The broadcast world is long overdue for an aesthetic overhaul. Viewers want a good role model? Let’s give them realistic ones, who don’t have plastic Barbie faces with a grandmother’s voice (cough cough–The View). Or, we can start pushing male journalists out when they get crows’ feet, too.

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Swears

I wrote previously on the changing of our society to one of Paper Plate Culture. This doesn’t nearly encompass all of the changes we’re going through. To tackle another one: swearing.

Swearing is one of the final taboos in most countries, and it’s on the way out. It’s been on the way out for a long time, really. The infamous “Seven Dirty Words” have been comedy routine inspiration since the 60s; in the early 2000s Dane Cook alone probably broke the swearing record on a daily basis. And let’s not forget the Matrix Reloaded, which brought to viewers’ attention the wonders of French swearing (essentially, say anything profane, connect it to another profane word or phrase with an appropriate article in between, and repeat until you’ve exhausted your repertoire). I do not have a single friend who doesn’t swear occasionally (in fact, most swear profusely and proudly). And you know what they say, if you don’t know who “that friend” is… it’s you.

(Yes, I’m the friend who doesn’t swear, at all, ever. But that’s a post for another day.)

Joining me, on the side of not swearing, is the media. Journalists have historically avoided obscenity—and it makes sense, given that obscenity is one of very few criteria that give reason for prior restraint (that’s censorship or restricted publishing, to any non-journalists). Perhaps in coming years the media will feel less restricted as swearing permeates all of our society, and swearing becomes colloquial and acceptable—even a way to relate better to viewers. I’ll be watching anxiously for the first unscripted, uncensored swear in the news.

Paper Plate Culture

Twitter is not my thing. I’ve known this for years, and that is why I never had one–until half an hour ago. The first sentence of this post is an echo of my first tweet. https://twitter.com/JournaIistish

Twitter enables people to be connected–it lets common people feel closer to celebrities; it lets jokes be passed around; hoaxes and rumors are perpetuated; information and life and art is shared. But Twitter, and its cousins, are contributing to what I call “Paper Plate Culture”. Generation Y (that’s anyone born from the late 80s to 2000) has grown up in a very advantageous stage of a technological revolution: cell phones are commonplace, TVs (usually more than one) in every home, personal computers for every member of the family. And as our technology evolves, so does the way we interact with the environment–and the way it interacts with us. Twitter, Vines, Instagram, and even Tumblr (the “Twitters” of videos, photography, and blogs, respectively) all serve basically the same purpose: condense information. Only see what you want, when you want, and as little of it as possible while still being entertained.

Condensing information lets you know more about the world, and faster; the sacrifice comes in quality. Now, a Vine (a video capped at a mere six seconds) can be funny, enjoyable, informative, even artistic and amazing. But after you watch a six second loop a few times, share it with a few friends, where does it go? Virtually, nowhere. It will sit on the internet collecting views, then fade into vagueness and virtual dust. Tweets can be poignant, heartbreaking, thrilling, evocative–but after retweeting, how often do you remember it? Unless some scandal arises, most of these tiny posts are soon forgotten. Paper Plate Culture: use something once, throw it away.

Paper plates have their place–perfect for picnics! great when you don’t want to do dishes!–but imagine never being able to eat off a real plate again. You’re relegated to having breakfast, lunch, and dinner off of a pulverized, de-pulpled and flattened tree carcass for the rest of your life. It’s a bit sad, isn’t it?

Brevity saves money, time, effort, and forces you to think extremely critically about what is necessary when you share something you’ve created. However, there is always going to be a corner of the market who hold onto that silly nostalgia of wanting to keep things, to contribute to or witness a part of history that will last; those who want to savor every meal using fine china and silverware and cloth napkins and candles and they’re frivolous for sure, but they’re also going to love every last bite.