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Watching the Watchdog: Global News and Why We're Just Too Good for You

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Veteran television newsman Tim Knight contributes a regular blog to HuffPost, analyzing and rating the top broadcast news shows in Canada. Saturday he will watch Sun News.

Episode: Global National News

Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anchor: Dawna Friesen

Too Ballsy -- After some 10 years as NBC's foreign correspondent in London, Friesen is a welcome addition to Canada's big three news anchor grandee list. Obviously intelligent, attractive, and hugely experienced, she handles the desk with professional ease. Only complaint I have is that she pushes her voice too much, confusing volume with authority. She has natural authority, and doesn't need that all-too-popular, somewhat forced, ballsy newscaster's sound.

As for the content of her show, see my verdict at the end of this blog.

Not going through all the details here gives me a great opportunity to bring up the matter of broadcast journalists and their tendency to overact.

One of my favourite subjects.

Want to know why -- once a news broadcast is over -- you can seldom remember a lot of what the T.V. and radio news anchors and reporters have just told you?

It's not your fault.

It's because most of them do a lousy job.

Almost all broadcast journalists secretly believe that their real selves, their real personas, are inadequate for air.

That the way they communicate best in real life isn't good enough for broadcast.

So instead of communicating like real human beings talking to other real human beings about things that matter, they merely imitate other anchors and reporters they see and hear every night.

Instead of communicating, they pretend.

They act.

Usually badly.

They confuse volume with authority.

Speed with energy.

It doesn't work.

In fact, they often hardly communicate at all.

And they don't fool anyone except, maybe, their mothers and the people in charge of broadcast journalism.

Anchors and reporters too often seem to think they're addressing large crowds.

But T.V. and radio work best when the performer talks naturally to just one other person about things that matter.

Guide to anchors and reporters:
  • YOU, at your very best, most prepared, and persuasive, know some stuff and care about it.

  • You're talking to ONE other person -- someone you know, like, and respect -- who knows likes and respects you.

  • Your job is to help that one other person know the stuff and care about it too.

Even in the worst T.V. sitcom, performers are expected to at least try to see the scenes, think the thoughts, feel the emotions in whatever they're delivering.

Most broadcast journalists, however, just read their scripts.

Loud.

And fast.

It's called being ballsy.

But reading loud and fast at people is the least efficient form of communication humans have ever invented.

Verdict on this night's Global News -- Overall, a very competent, well-written, and nicely varied newscast. With good reporting from the likes of Christina Stevens (Air Canada strike averted), Mike Le Couteur (Rob Anders and the Veterans), Jacques Bourbeau (robocalls), Russ Lord (Halifax radio station offering mail order brides), Grystal Goomansingh (cell phone while driving), Mike Armstrong (Montreal cops encourage prisoners to beat up pedophile) and Eric Sorensen (solar flares).