The problem with canned TV news
Local TV-news stations across the country seem to think their viewers are having trouble with overwhelming tides of email.
It should come as no surprise that local TV news stations use a lot of canned material from syndicators. TImes are tough, and budgets thin. But a video montage aired on “Conan” last week, which has since gone viral, shows just how pervasive the practice has become, and just how indiscriminate many stations are about which reports they choose to air.
This was host Conan O’Brien’s lead-in last Tuesday night: “A lot of people think that Super Tuesday is the big story of the day. Well, judging by local news, apparently there’s an even bigger story that’s sweeping the nation right now.” The montage was then shown, with about 30 different anchors asking: “Could this be the end of email overload?” The report focuses on Shortmail, a program created by a company called 410 Labs. The product, which has been called “Twitter for email,” promises to solve the supposed “overload” problem by limiting emails to 500 characters.
At least 225 stations aired the report. It was produced by CNN Newsource, which is sort of like an Associated Press for TV news (and which, like Fortune, is owned by Time Warner (TWX)). The montage included the introductions to 30 of those reports. The hilarity grew as the well-coiffed anchors’ identical intros piled up. The report has the benefit of meeting the minimum definition of “real news.” Meaning, it wasn’t a video news release dressed up to look like an actual report; nor was it stealth product placement presented as news.