Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

HOWARD ROSENBERG

Local News: Isn't It a Crime? : Television: An unscientific survey of local newscasts suggests that viewers are getting an unrealistic picture of life in L.A.

March 17, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG

How much actual news is in local TV news?

Not much.

More than half of the average newscast in Los Angeles is consumed by commercials, weather, sports, anchor chitchat, intros, promos of what's coming up and other unnewsy material.

And much of what viewers see in the rest of the newscast--the real news--will likely frighten them. For example, violent crime-related stories regularly occupy more than half of the relatively tiny news holes in newscasts on the city's network-owned stations, KABC-TV Channel 7, KNBC-TV Channel 4 and KCBS-TV Channel 2.

Thus, in many ways local news here is the embodiment of "Falling Down," the controversial movie about a man who snaps under the pressures of living in L.A.--the crime, the violence, the traffic congestion--and becomes a bat-swinging, gun-shooting vigilante.

Justifiably criticized in some circles as being crude, heavy-handed and manipulative, "Falling Down" is an ugly movie that portrays Los Angeles as a snarling city in which almost no one is civil, thereby seeming to justify the sociopathic behavior of its enraged protagonist, played by Michael Douglas.

In the West Los Angeles theater where I saw "Falling Down," each outburst of violence by the Douglas character was greeted by supportive cheers and laughter at the plight of his targets, as if this were a video game. People in the audience were so revved up that some of them laughed even at references to gassing victims of the Holocaust.

Some critics have praised "Falling Down." And on KCOP-TV Channel 13, Gary Franklin urged: "Go see 'Falling Down'. . . . You'll hate every moment of it, but it's important that you see it."

"Falling Down" and much of local news here share the same vision of Los Angeles. But whereas "Falling Down" is intended to be social satire that uses exaggeration to deliver a message, news is supposed to present an accurate picture of the world, not take incidents out of context and inflate them into a Holocaust.

Yet in many cases, that is exactly what local news is doing.

What follows is a rounded-off content count of Monday's local newscasts--an hour of news per station. It is not a scientific survey, but take it from someone who watches news on a regular basis: In most cases this was pretty much a typical day at the office for the genre, dominated by news of a murder/carjacking in Chatsworth and a foiled carjacking in Beverly Hills:

KABC-TV Channel 7 at 4 p.m.

* Newscast length: Hour. Total news: 26 minutes.

* Negative news: 17 minutes. Crime-related news: 14 minutes.

* Longest story: The Chatsworth murder/carjacking--2 1/2 minutes.

KNBC-TV Channel 4 at 5 p.m.

* Newscast length: Hour. Total news: 27 minutes (excludes 30 seconds of anchor Colleen Williams thanking anchor Paul Moyer and weathercaster Fritz Coleman for the baby shower given her by her news colleagues).

* Negative news: 24 minutes. Crime-related news: 16 1/2 minutes.

* Longest story: Winter storm package--4 1/2 minutes.

KCBS-TV Channel 2 at 6 p.m.

* Newscast length: Half hour. Total news: 11 1/2 minutes.

* Negative news: 11 minutes. Crime-related news: 11 minutes.

* Longest story: Beverly Hills attempted carjacking--2 1/2 minutes.

KCAL-TV Channel 9 at 9 p.m.

* Newscast length: Hour. Total news: 30 1/2 minutes.

* Negative news: May not apply, for most of the news hole was occupied by a package on the winter storm and a long interview/call-in segment with Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams about his department's strategy in the event of riots following the Rodney G. King civil rights and Reginald O. Denny beating trials. Crime-related news: None, unless the Williams segment is included.

* Longest story: The Williams segment--16 minutes.

KTLA-TV Channel 5 at 10 p.m.

* Newscast length: Hour. Total news: 28 minutes.

* Negative news: 16 1/2 minutes. Crime-related news: 12 minutes.

* Longest story: Winter storm package--2 1/2 minutes.

KTTV-TV Channel 11 at 10 p.m.

* Newscast length: Hour. Total news: 29 minutes.

* Negative news: 17 minutes. Crime-related news: 13 minutes.

* Longest story: Tax payments--2 1/2 minutes.

KCOP-TV Channel 13 at 10 p.m.

* Newscast length: Hour. Total news: 29 1/2 minutes.

* Negative news: 18 minutes. Crime-related news: 10 1/2 minutes.

* Longest story: Interview with Rebuild L.A. head Peter Ueberroth--3 1/2 minutes.

KCBS-TV Channel 2 at 11 p.m.

* Newscast length: Half hour. Total news: 14 1/2 minutes.

* Negative news: 11 minutes, 45 seconds. Crime-related news: 10 minutes.

* Longest story: The Chatsworth murder/carjacking and Los Angeles school board action--2 minutes each.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|