Saturday, February 1, 2014

Blog Recommends Satire of TV News Segment for Learning about TV News Segments

Why is it funny to reveal the conventions of storytelling and reporting in local TV news in a local news style? Is TV news format absurd? Ridiculous? Inane? Or, does the humor come from seeing something so familiar stripped down to the bare bones of its rules and internal logic without the narrative and connection to reality? This clip from Charlie Brooker's brilliant 2010 BBC4 Newswipe series, a show designed to reveal the inner workings of television news, presents us with a fun way to learn the typical techniques used in local TV news segment.

The obvious application here is to support learning conventions and techniques in TV news. Simply taking notes from the video would make a nice introduction to local news format. That could be a springboard to analyzing the techniques of other news broadcasts to compare to Brooker's satire.

A more interesting project would challenge you to make your own meta-media satire, where you explain the typical style and format of some mode of communication while using that mode. This happened spontaneously in the BoingBoing blog comment threads in response to the Brooker video when it was posted back in 2010 (scroll down to see the comments). People who watched the video started adding comments that were abstract descriptions of what typical blog comment threads tend to say:
  • greenglyph says: Metahumorous comment posted in order to ensconce one as a grizzled comment/forum/usenet veteran.
  • Loony says: Comment by infrequent poster that will be read by few people because it was posted late at night or late in the thread.
  • hordeofmonks says: incredibly overused formulaic joke involving a cat, xzibit, or both
  • Mitch says: Vague flattering comment posted by a spambot for the sole purpose of seeding the page with a link.
  • oasisob1 says: Something about Nazis.
Why not try the same thing with instagram, or Twitter threads? Or, offer the choice to A) analyze and categorize the techniques of a particular communication medium or genre; or B) Create a satirical meta-commentary on the medium/genre while using that style. Making satire requires deep engagement and knowledge of the conventions of the satirical vehicle. The project could be adapted to a variety of subjects--science news, history channel treatments, etc.

Aside from techniques, the video can provoke an important discussion about how we feel about the quality of local news. Brooker's meta-news segment nails the format, but what's the message here? Is it cynical, or just clever? Does it inspire critique and reform, educate in good humor, or ridicule towards outrage? I think I'd welcome any of those last three outcomes! [especially if the outrage or cynicism leads to seeking better news outlets elsewhere]

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