Breaking news: It’s snowing. It has been for a few days now. The country is currently so white, even the BNP would be happy.
This is something the news has chosen to drum in to us at every opportunity – and however entertaining it might be to laugh at people slip over as they try and get behind the presenters of Sky News, today it was highly amusing to watch Anglia Tonight try and fill time.
As well as a funding crisis, local news also happens to have a ‘content crisis’, particularly in Suffolk, where a dog visiting a hospital is noteworthy information. So earlier today, Anglia Tonight led with the snow as a top story – and it managed to show quite a few of the problems with TV news.
At the time, my mum was stuck in traffic around Ipswich, where she had just heard on Radio Suffolk that Ipswich was pretty much entirely closed off – and there were reports of a burst water main, or something, causing further problems. I can also tell you that there was an accident on the A12. Clearly, a county town being completely locked down is something of considerable note. Does it get covered?
It’s 6pm, and I’m watching ITV. On come those friendly, chummy faces who are telling us the groundbreaking information that schools have been closed. They have been for a few days now, but this is still something considerable enough to cover in depth with a package and a live interview for five minutes. The issue was as to whether schools should be shut, because the impact it could have on parents having to look after kids. The highlight of this was a headteacher, who did open his school, being interviewed by the presenters. Despite their best efforts to get him to say that all the closures were wrong, he “refused to comment on other schools”, and responsibly commented that it’s up to the school depending on the situation they are in.
In the studio, they ask him why don’t schools just open with skeleton staff, for those who can get in? Surely, it’s best for EVERY school to do this?
“Well, it depends on the school, and if they can get the teachers in.”
For the duration of this vague moment of sense delivered via satellite, the headteacher is standing outside his house, for no actual benefit whatsoever. I’m sure it was decided by the news team that this would make for a greater picture (it’s TV, pictures rule over content), but the only purpose it really serves is to demonstrate to me, the viewer, that it has snowed, and that snow happens to have settled.
I KNOW it’s been snowing, you’ve been going on about that for the last 5 minutes, and if I wanted to see something that as you say has been affecting us all, I could look out the bloody window!
He wasn’t the only person left out due to the cold. The woman, who the strapline stated was responsible for weather (the reporting of it, rather than the control of the climate in general), was inexplicably standing on a street, presumably just outside the Norwich studio, to tell us that yes, it has been snowing, and it will continue to. Again, I’m fairly sure that it has been snowing, and so her standing on a street does nothing to aid my understanding of this story. It might not look as good, but I’d rather her two-way piece was live from the newsroom, where I would at least assume that she is there because that’s where all the equipment and data that allows predictions about the weather to be made is! While standing on the street, the most accurate information she can give at this time is “well, it’s snowing now. It might do later. Or it might not. It’ll PROBABLY be cold.”
Sitting in the living room, I was in a better position to make judgements about what might happen… it just so happens that myself and my Dad were, using the trends of #uksnow tagged messages on Twitter to figure out where the snow had been and when to get rather accurate guesses as to where it would hit and when, ones that were more detailed and closer to reality than the Met Office!
Well, maybe there’ll be some more luck on the next item, the travel situation. Again, for some reason, the presenter did not appear to be at a place of much use to serving the information needs of an entire region, by being able to show us that this specific stretch of road was going alright. Maybe she’ll mention Ipswich being practically closed down?
“There’s a few problems on the A12 around Ipswich, with issues stretching back to Woodbridge.”
That’s it. No mention of the crash, the water pipe, or that traffic wasn’t moving for about 12 miles. Handy information there.
Oh, and to rub it in more, they then trailed in a ‘coming up’ montage that they’ll be showing us what animals are causing the footprints you’re seeing in the snow are. OH BOY!!!!!!!!
As well as being a demonstration of the quality we’ve come to expect from local news, it also was a good demonstration of the issues with TV news. For all the benefits you get of the visual medium for allowing as further understanding to the story as well as adding significant realism, the use of pictures seems to be more important than useful content, and it’s considerably slowe- oh, sorry, we’re going to go live now to our blogger, who is currently standing outside. Jonathan, what’s the situation out there, has there been snow..?
..yes, I can confirm, there has been snow here.
Thanks Jon. Now, before we go, the weather. It’s gonna snow. And the travel news… well, travel might be difficult. Because it’s been snowing.
Oh, and in case you didn’t catch that, there’s been snow.