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How to Watch TV News.

Although the topic of this book is television news and how to watch it critically, the perspective offered by the authors can be generalized to other types of television programming. For instance, a theme that underlies the text is the claim: "There is no escaping that fact: the whole point of television in America is to get you to watch so that programming, performers, and others can rake in the money." (3) That is a concern that relates to more than just television news.

The second chapter ("What is News?") examines the nature of news. Herein, the authors do not offer a concrete definition of news as the chapter title might suggest. What they do, instead, is demonstrate that there is no simple answer to that question; what the news is can be defined in many different ways. Part of the difficulty in formulating a precise definition of news is revealed in the authors' conviction that "a viewer must know something about the political beliefs and economic situation of those who provide the news. The viewer is then in a position to know why certain events are considered important by those in charge of television news..." (19) Only when one is aware of the political and economic demands inherent in the television news industry can one begin to appreciate the complexities involved in formulating a definition that garners general agreement.

Anchor person qualifications and influence, the influence of technology, the role of the news director, production process, docudramas, language, pictures, music, commercials, and cameras in the courtroom are subjects discussed in the ensuing pages. The authors conclude with a chapter ("What Can You Do?") that offers the following guidelines (pages 159-168):

1. In encountering a news show, you must come with a firm idea of what is important.

2. In preparing to watch a TV news show, keep in mind that it is called a "show."

3. Never underestimate the power of commercials.

4. Learn something about the economic and political interests of those who run TV stations.

5. Pay special attention to the language of newscasts.

6. Reduce by at least one-third the amount of TV news you watch.

7. Reduce by one-third the number of opinions you feel obligated to have.

8. Do whatever you can to get schools interested in teaching children how to watch a TV news show.

This is a compact book that raises important issues about television in general and television news in particular. Written from a consumer-of-television perspective, the authors offer sensible information and a critical perspective that can make wiser consumers of us all.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Institute of General Semantics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Coleman, William E., Jr.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Previous Article:Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously.
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