Those who have studied journalism will remember having been taught the five W’s. Well, that and never put a picture on the fold. While the fold thing may not be as important as it once was since most of us get our news from sources other than the traditional printed page, the five W’s are still the foundational structure of a properly presented news story. Who, what, where, when and why still need to be asked and answered by the journalist or else the news consumer is left asking those questions for themselves without the benefit of an answer.
By way of illustration, let’s take a look at a recent news item that caught the attention of and was reported by many local and national news shows. I saw the story on three different news outlets and still don’t know what caused the event. What I do know is that a grandmother and her dog were lost in the desert and were rescued. The grandmother, with her dog in the car was reported to have been driving in the desert and got lost. With no cell coverage available where she found herself, she evidently decided to hoof it to civilization and eventually laid out a “help” signal made of rocks and bones. After being spotted from the air, she sat on a rock and bawled and the officer rescuing her sat with her and hugged her.
The story we were given by various media outlets was one of grit, perseverance and a happy ending with hearts being warmed all around. Well, wait a minute. Did she run out of gas? Did her car break down? What would cause her to leave her car and wonder through the desert? Why wouldn’t she just keep on the road and drive to civilization? Inquiring minds want to know. None of those questions were answered in any of the coverage of this story that I saw.
We’re all glad she was rescued but has the media taken the Biblical principle of “let he who has never made a stupid decision cast the first question,” a little too far in their failure to find out what may have caused this dilemma? My take is that the news coverage available to us is just not of the quality it once was. Who do you think is a good news person? What would you change in news coverage? Where do you get your news? When is it wrong to ask questions? Why is any of this important? Your comments could be breaking news. Scoop the other guys and get yours posted here first while you are liking, sharing and subscribing! TTFN
It’s seldom that a voice talent becomes famous or even known by name. A couple that come to mind are Mel Blanc, probably the greatest cartoon voice guy ever (Bugs Bunny et all) and Don LaFontaine. You’ve heard his work. He invented and popularized the movie trailer genre that generated so much excitement about new movies by saying, “In a world….” Yeah, that guy.
Long after LaFontaine’s death, we still hear the impact of his work each time a new show is announced on TV. Of course, the guys doing television imaging aren’t as good as LaFontaine and most of them seem to be trying too hard. They’re all using that low, whispery, baritone gravel voice that drags the trailing end of a phrase out too long and sounds like they are trying to sneak up on you. It’s gotten out of hand and it’s really annoying. Just tell me what the show is and I may watch it. Your sneaky, scary, over-excited and over-acted voice will have zero effect on whether I watch a show or not.
Believe me, I understand and appreciate the value of good voiceover work as much as the next guy. I don’t want to be one of those guys that quotes studies but studies have shown that an ad with a British voice can be forty percent more effective in an American market. Not surprisingly, an American accent does the same in a British market. I get it, the right voice can make a big difference. A British accent is good for perfume, fashion or jewelry. Toilet paper, not so much. I don’t care if you do use some cute euphemism in reference to a person’s posterior. Calling an ass a “bum” doesn’t make it any more pleasant to hear about your product wiping it.
We’re all so used to having Sam Elliot sell us trucks that we have become conditioned to believe that anything manly has to be presented with a deep bass voice. It worked well for Ram Trucks but Firestone failed miserably with their ads. They intended to convey a sense of masculine identity associated with their auto parts. Instead, the male voice talent adopted a vocal affectation that sounded forced, creating a cartoonish, caricature of what was supposed to be a manly voice. He added too much spice and ruined the chile. It’s not like cowbell. You can never have too much cowbell.
I don’t do a lot of voiceover work any more. Most of what I did was during the time that my radio show was still on the air and sponsors would ask me to do their commercials. Even though I have closed my production company and scaled my studio back by quite a bit, I am still very active in making fun of advertising that deserves it. Won’t you join me? Toss in a comment about the ads that bug you and while you have your fingers on the keyboard don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. More later, TTFN.
Yes, that’s the opening salvo you’ll hear on any interview with celebrities, sports stars and pundits of every ilk. Lesser experts being interviewed on local news magazines usually start out with, “exactly,” as the first word in answer to the initial question. The only time you will hear something other than that will be when a news reporter is asking an eye witness to give an accounting and you will invariably hear, “I seen it.”
My theory on the consistent bad grammar of eye witnesses is possibly that they are selected specifically for their inability to structure a grammatically correct sentence so as to not shine brighter than the reporter. (This is where I put in the part about that being a joke and urge my many friends in the media to not send me any hate mail.)
As far as the verbal ramp-up mentioned earlier by so many talking heads, my guess is that they are just so used to hearing and using those phrases that they are unaware they are even doing it. Well, look, I mean you know, that could be the reason.
That same habitual or accepted use theory would also explain why so many local news teams use that annoying head turn to the camera in all of their ads. As a pilot I have watched the local news in a myriad of different cities during layovers. I can raise my right hand and swear that in every television commercial done by a local news crew, each reporter would turn their head to look at the camera as they were introduced.
We can probably cut the local news guys some slack but there is no excuse for the major network golf coverage that introduces each of their on-course announcers and have them, one-by-one, look up from facing their lap to facing the camera. It doesn’t get any hokier than that and what the hell were they looking at down there anyway? (Don’t answer that.) I don’t know for sure but that may be the same network that has coerced those poor innocent college football players into doing the same goofy move as they are introduced at the beginning of a game.
We didn’t do any of that on the radio and my television appearances consisted of a smattering of small parts. I wasn’t the star so I never got introduced. Maybe I’m just out of touch. Well, I mean you know, I am getting old. What do you kids think? Let me know in the comments and keep your pencils handy for the next post. We’ll be making fun of advertising. Oh boy! I can’t wait. Share on social, tell your friends, click the RSS feed button and as always, go forth and do clickwise. TTFN