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Leslie Griffith

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Anchors and Reporters: Stop Going Down With the Ship

Posted: 01/27/2012 5:03 pm

In the U.K., news "anchors" are called "presenters." It's high time we make that distinction here in America, too.

Those who read the news and interview others are little more than highly paid middle men. Wall Street taught us that middlemen and women do not always work in our best interest. Without putting real boots on the ground, these celebrity anchors do interviews... push opinions around... and give anyone with an agenda and a tenacious agent, public relations firm, or powerful political consultant... access to their coveted audience.

Consider the erosion in trust this behavior causes.

If you are old enough to recall the movie Broadcast News you will remember William Hurt playing a naïve and ethically challenged anchor. In that movie, Mr. Hurt's character plays a reporter who is reprimanded by a producer played by Holly Hunter after he worked up fake tears following an interview.

In another scene, Holly Hunter reprimands a photographer who tells a "rebel fighter" to put on his boots in hopes of getting a good "action shot." Hunter's character screams at the photog and his subject, "Stop! We are not here to stage the news. Sir, do whatever you want to."

The message was the same one taught in my newsroom way back when. Do not fake anything while reporting the news. No re-enactments, no pretense... just record what is happening. Let the viewer decide how to feel about it.

Today, it seems when we begin to trust an "anchor" or "reporter," we are, sadly, all-too-often reminded we shouldn't.

Case in point -- anchors playing themselves in a movie. This recent trend has notable "presenters" seamlessly crossing-over from reading the news into performing a script. In this case, the movie is the Oscar-nominated "Ides of March."

Watching some of those I've come to trust now reading lines in a movie about political games, the selfishness of celebrity and the benefits of betrayal... was like watching Wag the Dog and The Truman Show at the same time.

So, when are they play-acting and when are they not?

Are they play-acting on TV?

Heck, they already call their broadcasts "shows."

Reading a phony script about a phony campaign in a phony world with phony reporters -- it's all just too tiring to buy into.

When will America get a broadcast with reporters around the world, each living and breathing in countries of conflict? Or covering America's wars, but giving us news from behind enemy lines? When will they begin showing our common denominators instead of fanning the flames of conflict in order to make money? When will they begin doing reports on their own corporate commercial advertisers, exposing them for polluting our air, our food, our brains, our water, our planet?

It's sad to watch as more anchors and reporters buy into all of it while telling us not to.

I don't blame the reporters and anchors. Not anymore. I blame their bosses and ultimately the Federal Communications Commission for allowing those -- who shouldn't -- to own our nation's airwaves.

When NBC is a network and Comcast and GE own NBC -- I suppose it was just naïve to believe stock holders wouldn't push these anchors to be celebrities. But, it brings us all back to asking: "Who will ever help this nation find its balance again?"