Clutter TV

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Pet peeves – everybody has one, perhaps more.

If someone or something makes your skin crawl, that qualifies as a pet peeve. Ditto for those things, no matter how big or small, that simply irritate you to no end.

So, what’s my pet peeve? I’m glad you asked.

Talking heads simply drive me bananas. A talking head is a TV newscaster who doles out tiny tidbits of news-related copy (material that is often written by someone other than the person doing the talking) and fails to tell the entire story. On way too many occasions, they fail to properly read the material off the teleprompter – that friendly little device that all talking heads can’t live without.

Gee, it’s news made easy – someone else writes it, someone else types it for the teleprompter and all the talking head has to do is read it. How hard is that?

TV news is in the business of delivering &uot;soundbites&uot; – mere morsels of information that are crammed into 30-minute segments. Sure, TV news is capable of providing live, up-to-the-minute action, but where is the meat of the story? They can’t tell that because they have so little time in which to do so.

CNN and CNN Headline News does a better job of overall coverage, especially on the high profile stories. However, both are increasing guilty of cluttering-up my TV screen with TMI (Too Much Information).

Have you seen CNN Headline News lately? Inside a tiny box in the upper right hand corner is the actual video of a story they are telling. To its immediate left are some fancy graphics that informs the viewer of what he or she is seeing to the right.

The remainder of the screen is full of clutter – an up-to-the-minute headline box with a couple of scrolling paragraphs that attempts to tell the story in a condensed version; the time (EST, CST, MST and PST); the date; a weather forecast (complete with a changing map suited to the different areas of the nation) and current scores from professional or collegiate sporting events.

A viewer’s eyes will pop out of their sockets in an effort to follow all of that nutshelled information.

It seems all the TV stations, cable and network, are getting in on this &uot;clutter&uot; craze. One can’t sit back and enjoy a good, made-for-TV movie without some ignoring box popping-up on the bottom right of the screen that promotes an upcoming special featured on that particular station – complete with some sort of ear-piercing sound effects that drowns out what you’re trying to watch in the first place. Personally, if I want to know what’s going to be on that channel tomorrow night, I’ll check out the TV listings in my newspaper.

But getting back to these talking heads, have you ever noticed that while performing their &uot;interview&uot; duties, a TV reporter will take notes. They’ve recorded the audio and video on tape so what do they need notes for?

Another pet peeve of mine also concerns TV.

What’s the deal with these TV weather people – err, I mean meteorologists – standing in the way when I’m trying to see a weather system descending at a break-neck pace upon my town. I know they’re standing in front of a blue screen with an actual weather map superimposed on it. But hey, you, get the *@#!^**#@!! out of the way – there’s a severe line of thunderstorms knocking on my back door and I want to see just how close that system is in order to herd my family towards a safe place in our home.

In addition, some TV stations that claim to cover northeastern North Carolina will place those ignoring little promotional boxes on the weather map right over our portion of the state. If you want to pat yourself on the back and claim to be the Storm Team or Weather Central, go right ahead, but please move that promo box off the North Carolina counties that hug the Virginia line. We could have a threatening weather system breathing down our necks and the only way we would know it would be when the Wicked Witch, Dorothy and Toto flew past our window.

The Weather Channel isn’t much better, other than when a hurricane is making a beeline towards the Outer Banks. Have you ever noticed that when these talking heads come on with their top and bottom of the hour updates, it makes no difference if our little neck of the woods is getting blown off the map, they’ll start out with – &uot;It was a beautiful day in Boston, bright and sunny skies with pleasant temperatures&uot; – while showing some ritzy guy walking his terrier through the park.

So, here’s my column in a nutshell – hey, TV types, give me some news that tells the whole story; get the clutter and the self-serving promo boxes off my screen; get your cheap suit out of the way of the weather map; cease telling me how sunny it is in Boston and stop ruining my life!