Thursday, November 11, 2004

Breaking news that could have waited

Four minutes! I want CBS and Channel 11 in Dallas to give me back my four minutes.

Last night, I was watching CSI with my wife and one of my kids. The killers had been revealed, but the stories had not been resolved. And resolution is very important to an English teacher. It is a little like ripping the last page out of a novel. However it does not seem to be important to CBS. So if they can't give it back, I want an explaination, and if they are so inclined, an apology.

CBS interrupted the broadcast to share the news of Yasser Arafat's death. After noting the Palestinian leader's passing, we were treated to a montage about his life and politics and commentary about what this might mean for the United States, Israel, and Palestine. Now I am not saying that this isn't important news. I do not wish to argue that my personal entertainment is more significant than the tense situation. But this was not really "BREAKING NEWS," and so it could have waited four minutes for the completion of the program. (By the way, the other major networks recognized this fact. )

Nearly anyone who watches television knew that Arafat was dying and could indeed, pass at any moment. Many people care about how this situation is going to play out. But was it really necessary to interrupt the show just before it ended? They didn't go back to the program and provide viewers with the ending. They didn't even continue with the news, though by the time the montage was over, it was past ten o'clock. No, CBS then aired its commercials, including a teaser for next week's episode of CSI. (Of course, when was the last time a commercial was interrupted for breaking news? You think that any network is going to compensate our loss by replacing four minutes of commerical time with more of the show we missed?)

On the home page for the Dallas CBS affiliate, under the heading "Top Stories," there isn't even a link or headline about Arafat's death. That link is further down the page under "World News." If it isn't an important story, then why in the world would they deign to barge into my living room with news that could have waited four minutes.

As T.S. Eliot wrote, "All time is unredeemable." Okay, so it might be unreasonable for me to expect CBS to give me my time back. I somehow doubt that any of their executives or the station manager at Channel 11 will take the time to read this blog. However, I do hope that I will not be the only one to register my complaint with them. CSI is for entertainment, and I know its place. But I believe people in television have an obligation to take stock of what they mean by "Breaking News." It should not be about who first gets the story out, but also about the right time and place for intrusion.


Anonymous said...

C.S.I is the greatest show ever. I was so mad when they did that. Thanks for standing up.

Anonymous said...

Amen brother..."Breaking News" my arse.

Then again, what IS worth interupting CSI? Nothing I say....nothing.