Accuracy in TV news

TV studio

I recently read an article on Poynter MediaWire about the use of the word “tonight” in TV newscasts.

The article showed the misuse of time periods in the narration of some TV stories.

Here is what Ric Ward found out when he watched ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir.

“On Tuesday, July 21, I counted 45 “tonight” references in the newscast. All but 10 of the “tonights” were in anchor scripts. The other 10 were in reporter packages or live shots. With a news hole of roughly 20 minutes, that’s a “tonight” every 26 seconds.

Were all the “tonights” necessary? In my opinion, no. Most were like Newswriting 102 in hyper overdrive. Not needed. Only thrown in to give the story an air of immediacy – a false air of immediacy.

Were they accurate? For most, if not all — no. Lines like ‘new video released tonight’ when the video had aired most of the day on other networks, cable channels and online were simply false. Lines like ‘investigators say tonight’ are also inaccurate. Unless you consider early afternoon as ‘tonight’,”

I was pretty shock by that article because I realized I had never really paid attention to the misuse of “tonight.” But by watching the ABC newscast I realized how misleading this was. It also made me think of the overuse of adjectives in TV journalism. It is not rare to hear words like “terrible,” “dramatic” or “incredible” in a newscast.

These adjectives make the reports less objective and adds drama and sensationalization. But this is not what an unbiased newscast should be. A journalist or anchor is not supposed to tell the audiance how to feel about the news.

On the contrary to ABC evening news, I watched the CBS evening news and they did a great job avoiding “tonight” when it was not accurate, they actually almost never used it. They used a couple of “drama adjectives” but nothing too problematic in my opinion.

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