Women for show & tell not think


An unusually high number of searches have landed up on this blog looking for Janet Wilson’sblog Adjust Your Set and her post Eye Candy which was the subject of a story in yesterday’s NZ Herald.

She contends that TV hires young females for their looks rather than their journalistic ability.

Men with good faces for radio regularly appear on TV. But  it’s rare to see women who are not both young and attractive and who often show little evidence of being chosen for their ablity to think.

Show don’t tell


Show don’t tell.

That’s the advice given at creative writing classes and it also applies to journalism.

Why then does television, the medium best equipped to show, waste so much time telling us things?

An example that stuck in my mind was the reporter standing in the empty Wellington stadium telling us how full it had been for the football game the night before. When she’d finished talking we were shown the stadium from the night before and surprise, surprise, we could see that it was full.

One of the lessons drummed into me at journalism school was that we look before we listen and so whenever possible we should let the pictures tell the story.

That lesson must have by-passed whoever directs TV news these days. Not content with showing us the story, reporters have to start by telling us what we’re about to see and finish by telling us what we should think and how we should feel about it.

If the pictures and voice-over don’t convey everything that’s needed, the solution isn’t breathless to-camera reporting telling us the story from the journalist. It’s better pictures,  showing us the story with the voice-over explanations kept to a minimum and without gratuitous comments and opinions at the end.

What we get now isn’t reporting, it’s an unhappy cross between amateur dramatics and propaganda.

TV needs to do less telling, more showing and leave the thinking and feeling to the viewers.

What really matters?


In a week when we’ve been told the nation’s accounts have at $10.5 billion deficit and ACC is sinking under its own weight, people are wasting time and energy arguing about who should screen rugby matches.

And in all the reports on all the arguments has anyone given satisfactory answers to these questions:

* Why is access to free-to-air sports on television a right?

* Why is it acceptable to pay to attend a game but not to watch it on television?

* How many people who want to watch the Rugby World Cup on television don’t have reasonable access to pay TV?

* Would it be cheaper to pay for these people to get pay TV for the duration of the RWC or pay for a taxi to take them to a pub where they could watch the match for free than it is to provide free-to-air coverage?

If that sounds like a silly question answer this:

* Is watching free-to-air sport a higher priority than health care?

That might sound like a silly question too. But when we’re borrowing enough to build a new hospital each week to maintain what the government provides now, it’s a very sensible question which leads on to another:

Why are taxpayers supporting anything that could be considered a luxury when we’re borrowing to fund necessities?

What really matters – the things a few people want or what most people need?

Britain’s got manipulation – Updated


Britain’s Got Talent introduced Paul Potts to the world and it’s done the same for Susan Boyle.

Who’s Susan Boyle? Straight Furrow (and we’ll pass over why a farming paper is covering this at all) described her as a frumpy middle-aged woman who astonished judges on a television talent quest.

But did she astonish them?

There’s no doubt that their faces went from unimpressed to wowed as they got over her appearance and were captivated by her voice. But did they really not know how well she could sing before the show was filmed?

After all she had to audition to get that far so isn’t it possible the judges might have heard a wee whisper that her voice was stunning and maybe even have been encouraged to appear especially underwhelmed by her initial appearance to contrast with their excitement once she started singing?

Even if the judges hadn’t been prepared, putting her on the show without any grooming or wardrobe preparation suggests the producers wanted her to look that way so the contrast between her appearance and her voice would have maximum impact.

And it did.

Not only was she a hit on the show, YouTube has taken her to the world where it’s been watched by tens of millions of people. Boyle’s now the favourite to win the show with its 1000,000 pound prize and she’s already in discussion with a recording company.

Doors are opening to a new life so much better than the old one which has been anything but charmed.

Boyle is 47, unemployed, perpetually single and lives alone with her cat, Pebbles, in Bathgate, West Lothian – a town apparently dubbed “a dump” by Britain’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan. Boyle’s sunny (if gauche) demeanour masks a sad life: the youngest of nine, she was deprived of oxygen at birth, which led to learning difficulties and, as a result, a childhood marred by bullying. Forty years later, it was her mother – whom she lived with and cared for – who wanted her to audition for the ITV talent show. But she died in 2007, leaving Boyle suffering from depression and anxiety.

Then she got the audition:

Simon Cowell was at his sneering best. . .  Girls in the audience sniggered and there was a snort of barely concealed derision from Morgan.

Everyone concluded that this podgy woman with a frumpy frock, a wiry hairdo and heavy brows fell into the comedy-audition category. They settled into their seats for a good laugh, knowing she would massacre the song from, as she put it, “Les Miserabs”. But then Susan Boyle started to sing.

And . . . there followed one of those transcendent moments that make TV history. Boyle’s voice rose pure and clear over the huge Glasgow theatre. Before even the first refrain, the sniggers had turned to applause.

It’s like a real-life Cinderella story with every chance she will live happily ever after and I hope she does.

But I do have some reservations about the way the whole thing was manipulated. I watched the YouTube clip with a grin and listened with tears in my eyes. Then I watched again and I wondered, what would have happened if she hadn’t had an extraordinary voice?

The sniggers turned to cheers when she started singing but if she hadn’t sung so beautifully would they have turned to boos and instead of the outpouring of warmth would there have been scorn because the woman with ordinary looks also had an ordinary voice?

Even now, her appearance is part of the story because appearances count – and not just for women because Paul Potts straightened his teeth after he won an earlier competition.

But there is something about the way it was done with Susan, the feeling that there was a deliberate attempt to encourage the sneers at her appearance that leaves me feeling that we’ve all been manipulated.

It was very good television but it wasn’t good behaviour.

UPDATE: Whaleoil has a similar view

UPDATE 2: Julie posts on the Susan Boyle phenomenon at  The Hand Mirror with a link to what if Susan Boyle couldn’t sing? by Dennis Palumbo at The Huffinton Post.

Also at THP Andy Borowitz  posts on the issue.

What is a journalist?


Cyril Connolly said: Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grapsed at once.

He died in 1974 so we can’t ask him to define blogging. But Vernon Small  is confused because he no longer has a robust definition for a journalist and he asks: 

Do bloggers do journalism? Or do we need a new definition of journalism that allows some sorts of blogging but not others …. since I seem to be blogging right now.

My answer is some journalists are bloggers, some are not; some blogging is journalism, some is not. Blogging is a new medium of communication different in many ways from but complimentary to older forms such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television.

All of these have people writing for them, some of whom are journalists, some of whom aren’t, some get paid for it, some don’t; some write well, some don’t; and some of what they write is journalism and some isn’t.

Small says he would find it hard to recommend a blogger be given accreditation to the press gallery. I have reservations about this because it appears to be restricting freedom of expression because of the of the medium used to communicate. However, you define journalism it ought to take account of what is done, and possibly how well, but not the medium used to do it.

Hat tip:  Inquiring Mind and Kiwiblog.

Update: The Hive has entered the debate.

UPdate 2: So has No Right Turn. and Update 3 Jafapete has too.

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