Give Us The News Quickly, Now!
An open letter to the news media
By Gideon T. Rasmussen, CISSP, CRISC, CISA, CISM, CIPP
It’s time for a new format for news programs. The average adult consumes information at a rapid pace, reading 100 or more e-mail in a typical work day.
Here are guiding principles for a fast paced news format:
1. Set a mandatory number of topics per hour. It should be possible to cover 15-20 topics in an hour long news show. Set a minimum number of topics and stick to it. Have a few topics that must be covered at least once in every show (e.g. the economy, climate change and world news).
2. Give us the facts and only the facts. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. Report the facts. No opinions, no spin, no bias. Give it to us straight.
3. Provide analysis. Each show has a research staff. Give us the rationale behind broad statements. Tell us why a given position is good or bad. We are interested in investigative reporting. You can refer us to another segment for the details.
4. Consider what questions the audience might ask and answer them. This should be a form of quality assurance when developing a story. Have a devil’s advocate on the team to represent the audience, someone that is not drinking the cool aid. Answer the ‘so what’ question.
5. Stay in the center. Politics are religion. Don’t have a bias towards the left or right for this one show. Give us analysis just before elections with facts and records of politicians so we can hold them accountable and vote the bums out.
6. Reduce the number of non-value add interactions. In order to cover an increased number of topics, it will be necessary to be disciplined in the format of the show. Eliminate hand-off conversations between shows. No stories about the staff’s personal lives please.
7. No pundits. No interviews. Give us a break from the pundits. They can opine in the remaining 23 hours. No interviews please. The conversations burn time. Conduct research offline and present the facts please.
8. Don't news-splain to us. Tell us about the new development with mid-level detail. Do not repeat the same talking points a few times over 5 minutes. We get it the first time.
9. Remember that news is meant to be new. When covering a reoccurring topic such as Covid, do not repeat developments from two or three days ago, that have already been communicated on the same show.
10. Be concise with breaking news. No riffing. Please don’t tell us what could have happened or what may have happened. You don’t know. We understand there is a 24 hour news cycle. Give us updates as more facts become available.
11. Leverage comedy news shows for inspiration. They set a good example for a fast paced format. Watch a few episodes of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. Reference Trevor Noah’s ‘Ain't Nobody Got Time For That’.
12. Train anchors on this format. In some cases it may be necessary for them to "unlearn what they have learned".
13. People get burned out. Consider having two anchors to distribute the load of this hard-charging format. It may be necessary to swap out anchors or research personnel.
14. Failure is not an option: If the audience is glancing at their phones, that's a fail. If they don't hit pause or rewind, that's a fail. If they are not recording on DVR, that's a fail.
It’s time for a change. You have 24 hours of news. Please give us this one hour to catch up on the day’s events.
So what is the return for you, the news media? Higher ratings, increased audience and market share. Industry awards. Ability to charge more for commercials. Increased revenue.
You have 24 hours to play with and nothing to lose. Opportunity knocks!