Jan 5, 2009

Broadcast news: the domain of the blue hairs

Sitting in a bagel shop the other day, I overheard a couple of elderly women sharing opinions on a matter that was obviously of great importance to them. Apparenty, one of the local television outlets terminated the services of its lead news anchor -- an act that had these two senior citizens determined to play their Neilsen card by shifting their allegiances to one of the competing stations on the dial as a direct protest.

Sure enough, a subsequent Google search confimed my eavesdroppiong: the popular Lydia Kulbidia was dropped by her employer, WNYT, several weeks ago. Breadcrumb comments related to this issue also reveal that several other long-time talking heads have recenly met similar fates in the Capital Region media market.

Now, I'm one that prides himself on being an informed citizen on issues both local and faraway. So, I should be surprised that this one slipped by my radar screen; right?

Not really. Broadcast news -- whether it be a major network or one of its local affiliates -- continues to slip firther and further into the 'irrelevant' category for many of us, especially the net-centric / digerati class. But there are no tears here, that's for sure.

Brodcast news has become a cheap commodity. Cheap, as in anti-intellectual, un-infomative and appealing to the lowest common denominators among us. It's all about the weather, isnt it?

"Tonight's lead story: a huge snowstorm is on its way; thousands are doomed. Details after this report on the huge holiday shopping traffic at Crossgates. Erin, how many happy faces are you seeing out there?"

All of this deliverd by a person that can: a) read; and b)is pleasantly attractive, in the non-threatening sort of way. But even the dynamics of that long established formula are showing signs of shifting, as some networks and outlets are following the European model of substituting that "pleasantly attractive' with 'young & hot'. Tune in to CNBC or Fox for proof.

But there are plenty of attactive young faces out there; just another commodity. And if it's a commodity, then by definition a buyer doesn't need to pay a heavy price to own it. So as Lydia, Liz and Tracey and the other vets get a bit long in the tooth; their six-figure salaries are hard to justify when an attractive 25yo can be plucked from a smaller market or right out of Syracuse U for $50K. As long as they can read, that is.

Meanwhile, try this little experiment: ask the next five people who have a Blackberry if they've heard about the big 'Lydia' news; and if so: do they really care?. then repeat the same experiment with the next five people you run across under the age of 30.

I bet you get a different reaction than the two blue hairs in the bagel shop.


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