Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Is News I Need?

I kid you not, I saw this on the San Francisco Chronicle's web page the other day.

Yeah, and wasn't his gardener's brother's son arrested?

I'll bet he knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon, too.

And while I'm harping on the news, I'd just like to register my complaint about headlines that are put in the form of a question. I mean, it's supposed to be the news, not Jeopardy*. I'll take Middle East Conflicts for $500, Alex.

You know what I'm talking about. Here are some examples I just pulled off the internet sites of major American news organizations:

"Will stimulus bill win over any Republicans?"
"GOP Bum-Rushed by 'Voice' of Party?"
"Is Gregg a Candidate for Commerce?"
"Is Blago really out?"

And, my personal favorite:

"Is there something mysteriously lucky beneath David Beckham's AC Milan shorts?"

I find the worst offenders to be the broadcast news shows. Often the headline-in-the-form-of-a-question is a teaser just before a commercial break to ensure you don't go far from the television set. As in, "Coming up next, will the world really end in fifteen minutes? We'll tell you, right after this..." The same tactic is used to get you to tune in to a later installment: "Be sure to watch next week's special report: Will your drinking water kill you?" Uh-oh. Better stick to wine until that comes on.

Question-headlines also tend to introduce lifestyle, sports, or lighter, somewhat humorous stories. Again from the internet:

"Will the green technology sector remain bullish?"
"Prince Harry: Bachelor again. But why?"
"Fewer calories, better memory?"
"Super Bowl, super boring?"
"Walters: Does God care who wins?"
"Zombies on the highway?"

I suppose the news people think that the question mark will be our clue that what's coming next is not part of the "serious" news of the hour. Like we really need a clue that every story on myriad twenty-four/seven news channels and continuously updated internet news sites is not a late-breaking hard-news item.


And don't get me started on Super Bowl ads.

Thanks for listening. Coming up tomorrow, will Walt find out what's beneath David Beckham's shorts? We'll let you know, right here on wcs: another american in france.

* Jeopardy is an American television game show in which the answers must be given in the form of a question.


  1. My favorite Chronicle headline:

    Great city forced to drink swill!

    I don't know if it had an exclamation point. It was about bad coffee in San Francisco ... funny, because when I lived there San Francisco was one of the few places where you could get a good cup of coffee.

    But, you are right again Walt ... a half-hour spent watching CNN (it's at the health club) can drive you crazy ... just repeating the same stories, showing the same photos, the coming-up next teasers ...

    But, you can be sure to have a big audience for your next posting!

  2. >>Is there something mysteriously lucky beneath David Beckham's AC Milan shorts?<<

    Depends what you think of Victoria.

  3. Go get 'em, Walt! The news twits have it coming.

    My word verification is "morans." Close enough.

  4. A few years ago around here, they started ending all of the news teasers (just before commercial break) with, "And what about (insert headline question) ? You may be surprised to find out."

    Or I might change the stinkin' channel rather than watch news presented that way... NO HELP! They all do it now :)


  5. It's a J-school class: "Wanna ask your own questions and give your own answers?"

    That Lincoln's-doctor's-dog headline about Bond stopped me cold too. I still love the news, but like any love, it has its bad habits.

  6. The "news" are getting even more difficult to get and all networks have to use gimmicks to keep their viewers. NBC used to get most of their advertising money from the big 3 auto-makers. No more. Also have you noticed that GMA, Today show... are just info-mercials? Their guests always have a new movie out, a new book, a new play... always something to sell. For real news, I turn to BBC or PBS. Bill Moyers has a terrific show on friday evenings on PBS. I believe the news is always out there, you just have to find it. PS : my favorite episode of "Cheers" was when Cliff went on "Jeopardy" and the answers were : favorite bars, stamps, famous mothers... I really miss well written shows.

  7. Which is why I keep The Weather Channel on for my visual "noise" while I am reading Huffingtonpost. At least when they repeat the same stuff every 8 minutes, the radar has changed. With CNN, the repeats are exactly the same. Not sure how those guys do not go running out of the studio screaming after saying the same thing over and over and over trying to act like it is the first time they have said it.

  8. If Beckham's high-pitched, nasally voice is anything to go by, he mightn't have a great deal of 'luck' under those shorts.

    I know what you mean about the headlines, I can see why they use questions to headline feature articles, maybe, but it IS kinda dumb on news briefs.

  9. My pet peeve is turning on CNN and seeing the "Breaking News" banner displayed ALL THE TIME! What are they going to put on when they actually have breaking news?

  10. Meanwhile, I live an a rural area where the newspaper is more like a newsletter highlighting important events. Such events include obituaries on the 2nd page, transactions of livestock and other riveting issues known only by the isolated people here. Its notoriously known for grammatical and spelling errors. My favorite headline was "Man shit 10 feet from house," when it was intended to report a shooting.

  11. Well, it could have been the result of a shooting. Just the sight of a gun could cause me to do the same.

  12. Since happenening upon it at 3am or so this morning, I have spent at least 6 hours perusing your and Walt's wonderful blogs. My route in was via the BBC news, and a story about the Ayatolla Khomeini's years in a small French village as an exile. Ahhh, my mind says, "a small French village!". The aged and sputtering memory engine then tries to remember the name of this delightful place. A look on the map near where I recalled it to be revealed Tah-dah, Ste. Aignan!

    A little Googling later, and up pops your blog (and Ken's). What a joy to read and a feast for the eye!

    About 20 years ago, my wife and I spent a few days there at the somewhat ambitiously named Grand Hotel. But they were delightful days full of wine and sun. I'll be back often to visit vicariously via your blogs. Thank you so much!

  13. andy, I've drunk my share of swill... and yes, more than 15 minutes of CNN will drive anyone bonkers.

    autolycus, lol!

    carolyn, morans it is!

    judy, glad I missed that! And a coffee day just happens when one of us feels like coffee. Normally we drink tea in the morning.

    chris, it's like watching the proverbial train wreck sometimes, horrible, yet you can't turn away.

    nadege, the morning shows in the US drove me nuts for years. That's the real reason I moved to France.

    mpabner, at least the weather is mildly interesting!

    evol, I assume it's a similar thing in Australia, then?

    mark, that's when I'd like the 'break' the news.

    rachael, lol!

    bill, thanks for coming by! Yes, the Grand Hotel isn't very grand. But it is a lovely area, isn't it!


Pour your heart out! I'm listening.