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A Letter From America: How The TV News Got Woke

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A letter from America: How the tv news got woke

LOCAL TV news has always been ripe for satire, in America particularly. Will Ferrell did it best in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

It is so soft it turns to mush before your very eyes. If you spend three weeks watching it (I did other stuff too) you will find that your stress levels about Ukraine, Covid and inflation have tumbled, simply because these issues are not covered on Kansas Today.

The point of the “news” is to leave you feeling happier (this doesn’t apply at a national level of course, where Fox and MSNBC will shout at you about the end of the world, for 24 hours a day at least).

The subject matters are local politics, a bit, the college basketball team and cats being cute.

Lately, though, something odd has happened. The state of the world is such, and people are cross enough about it all, that even local TV has realised it can’t get by just with cat-up-a-tree stuff.

Ratings are sharply falling.

So in a bid to reach younger viewers who currently get their news from social media, each local affiliate station has adopted a campaigning stance on something, just one issue they dip into each day to show they are serious.

So in-between “Go Tigers!” and “Save our Gardens” there are suddenly bits on “Race Matters” or “The Ripping Off of America”.

It’s Ron Burgundy trying to be John Simpson, and it goes clunk without fail. They can’t quite get themselves to say that all in America is not well.

Local TV news in the US is soft because that’s what the viewers mostly want, and because the owners don’t want to upset the sponsors.

(One of my favourite ever facts: The most watched TV channel in America on 9/11/2001 was…The Weather Channel. It was a beautiful sunny day, I recall.)

But here’s a funny thing. The messages in-between the news segments from large corporations are changing.

There remains the usual glut of adverts for drugs, where the side effects sound far worse than the original condition.

But there are also positively woke messages from gigantic corporations like Disney and Apple, lately scolded by Republicans for being too vocally liberal.

In other words, the adverts, the corporate messaging, is More Progressive, more campaigning than the actual news.

You don’t have to think this is a good thing to see the opportunity.

In the past, the young idealist planning to make, say, BP, better for the planet would get crushed by corporate bureaucracy. Now, she at least gets heard.

Which means everyone working in marketing and corporate communications has a chance to be more useful to society than journalists. Or at least than Ron Burgundy.

I think y’all should go for it.

Press release of the day

How serious are we all about ESG? Well this from Charles Schwab says 66% of UK retail investors don’t care if their investments are sustainable.

Only 19% of them even hold ethical stocks. Millennial investors are more concerned about ESG factors than the rest of us.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) SoftBank to slow investments following crash in tech holdings. FT

2) Oil prices drop as Biden considers releasing reserves. BBC

3) The US sanctions an oligarch – but exempts his companies. WSJ


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