There’s a story floating around about a weatherman who was fired after he went on the air and told viewers that, yeah, he knows calling every storm a “Code Red” is stupid and not doing a great job of informing viewers.
Watching the video, I could feel him trying to be diplomatic while also letting viewers know: “this is not my choice. I DO NOT LIKE THIS.” And, man, do I feel for him.
When I was still on TV a million years ago, we were told to call every minor traffic slowdown a “Hot Spot.” I would get screamed at to go on the air and repeat the phrase “hot spot” over and over, making sure viewers KNEW that the world was ending because of a mattress on a curb that was causing drivers to TAP ON THEIR BRAKES, or a fender-bender on an off-ramp, or reports of a gas tanker that went off a bridge. Well, maybe that one WAS a hot spot.
I would be yelled at in the wrap-up meetings to call more things Hot Spots.
I would get called into the boss’ office to call stuff a Hot Spot.
And then I started to get emails and Tweets from people who would tell me they hated that I called almost everything a Hot Spot, because it made it hard to figure out what was actually bad when, apparently, EVERYTHING was bad.
And the feedback from viewers was ignored. And then ratings would go down. And the strategy? Call even MORE things a Hot Spot.
A few months after the station manager called me into his office just to let me know he didn’t like me (seriously, that was the whole meeting) I was unceremoniously relieved of my duties.
But if you’re one of those people who still watches local news, and you see your favorite station descending into this? Tweet and post on Facebook publicly and let them know. They ignore emails and letters, but everybody can see your posts (unless you get blocked) , and do it respectfully and politely but tell them if they keep up the Consultant lingo nonsense, you’ll stop watching.
And then, if they keep it up, stop watching.
Sometime in the late-90’s/early 2000’s local TV figured out they had to SHOUT everything at people (in between stories about chili cookouts and awful anchor banter) and then consultants figured out they could make big money by going town-to-town telling local affiliates that viewers wanted two things: big scary graphics, and big fake tits. And they were right. And it certainly works for Fox News. But don’t be another dumb person who just allows it to happen.
And if you’re one of those people who somehow still works in local news, godspeed.