West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Why I Stopped Watching TV News

Community, Things that bug me

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to see Lisa Ling speak as part of the Journal Sentinel’s Smart Talk Series at the Marcus Center. My season tickets to the series are an annual gift to myself. It’s a great excuse to create a girls’ night out with a friend – dinner, followed by an interesting talk by a prominent and/or successful woman. (I’ll explain later why this will be my last year as a subscriber.)

I’ve always been a fan of Lisa Ling. Her down-to-earth journalistic style is a far cry from the overly dramatic and sensationalistic methods used by other reporters. To me, she’s always seemed like someone you could sit down and talk to, without feeling intimidated.

In her talk, Ling made a comment that resonated with me. She talked about the deterioration of television news and how little “real” news is really being reported. Newscasts filled with stories about Brittany and Anna Nicole and Paris Hilton. With the proliferation of all-news networks, that should be no surprise. It’s virtually impossible for networks such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to fill their broadcasts, without adding “filler” – opinions spouted by so-called experts, reports on everyday dangers and puff pieces that are basically just gossip.

For me, this is especially true with our local news broadcasts. At the risk of biting the hand that hosts my blog, Channel 4 (owned by Journal Communications) is the worst offender. This week, their big news promotion is “The Meat We Eat,” a behind-the-scenes expose on meat gone bad. They seem to have made a conscious decision to gear their newscasts to the sensational and the scary.  Their “local news” is nothing more than investigative reporting gone over-the-top. No wonder Mike Gousha left.

This is exactly why I made the decision long ago to stop watching television news. It used to be a habit to turn on the 10:00 pm news before I’d nod off to sleep. Night after night, our local television journalists would alarm, scare and depress me before I fell asleep. It did absolutely nothing for my daily attitude.

And so I stopped – cold turkey. If I need to flip on the TV before I go to bed, it’s The Daily Show. Nothing ends the day better than a chuckle over faux news. Unless there truly is a big story on the news, I don’t miss it a bit.

I’m now a habitual daily newspaper reader. I love starting out the day by reading a well-written story. Sure, the Journal Sentinel covers many of the same stories that I might see on the news, but there’s so much more. And nobody is shouting at me, making idle chit-chat or adding a dose of dramatic music to the news. It’s all there. And I can choose to skip the filler.

And, no, I don’t agree with everything the Journal Sentinel covers or their editorial stance. But I prefer my news written, not stirred. I think I get that from our daily paper.

Back to the Smart Talk Series. They’re losing me as a subscriber because like local TV news, the series has become a bloated series of talking heads. I pay for my tickets. And yet, time after time, they insist on parading corporate vice-president after corporate vice-president past us to “introduce” the speaker. And we’re supposed to applaud for each of them after their little introductions. Seriously? It takes THREE vice-presidents to introduce one speaker? I’m not dumb, I know it’s marketing. But we’re getting less speaker and more vice-president. The speakers only talk for 45 minutes, max. Then there’s a question and answer period. They ask for questions from the audience, but the moderator generally has her own agenda and her own questions. To me, it’s not a great buy for my entertainment dollars. Too bad, it was a great idea.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, grandmas, aunts, godmothers and special women in all of our lives!

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