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Television News, New Year's Eve, and a Question

By - January 04, 2004

fireworksI was going to let this one slide, but I thought, what the hell, this is what a blog is for. So perhaps some of you readers might have an answer to this query and its associated hypothesis (as yet unproven or even tested), and, if true, the related problem I have with it.

Query: Why, on New Year’s Eve, which my wife and I spent blissfully housebound with a newborn and our two other young’uns, were NONE of the news channels, not NBC, not CBS, not ABC, not even CNN or MSNBC, running the traditional “New Year’s Around the World” fare? The stuff you see every single New Year’s Eve? You know – It’s New Year’s Eve in Paris (ooh – fireworks behind the Eiffel Tower!), then New York (the ball drops!), Chicago (revelers drinking), etc? This stuff is usually shown live around the world. It was very very odd to see re-runs of Aaron Brown’s evening program on CNN, instead of live shots from world capitals. And on the networks, only ABC had a New Year’s special, and it was clearly canned and overly produced (Dick Clark, from beyond the grave), with no live shots (at least, not to us in California).

Hypothesis: It seems to me that this had to do with the heightened terror alert level. I can’t think of any other reason. Television news didn’t want to potentially broadcast an attack live to the world, and wanted terrorists to know that the opportunity to strike live on television would not exist.

Problem: If this is true, it seems to me that it’s a violation of broadcast news’ responsibility in any number of instances, but most significantly, in the news outlet’s duty to the viewer to keep them informed as to why they are or are not seeing what they are seeing. This reeks of baby steps toward collusion beteen the press and the government (don’t worry, we know what information is good for you). It disturbs me greatly to think that the entire television news corps decided, collectively or not, to abandon its long-held tradition of reporting New Year’s Eve as a live news story – and then simply not tell us they were doing so. It strikes me as doubly troubling if they did this at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, and then didn’t tell us about it.

My only possible proof of this hypothesis was a piece I saw on New Year’s Day. I forget which channel it was, but the perky reporter said “Now that New Year’s Eve went off without a hitch, we can show you some pictures from around the world….”

I’m not against the premise of this – that the network news, in times of crisis, collaborates with the government to help prevent a terrible tragedy (though I could argue this was not such an instance). I am, however, against the idea that the public is not informed about such a collaboration, and that journalistic watchdogs aren’t at least discussing the implications of same.

Did I just miss something? Did all the networks run disclaimers before I tuned in? Was there a widely publicized New Year’s Eve Media Blackout that I missed word of? Did the NYT or anyone else run a piece on this I missed? I can’t find a thing about this on Romenesko…if this were in fact true, one would think journalists would at least have a robust debate about it, right? Does this bother anyone else, or am I rambling wildly off the mark? I’m going to email my friends in network news and ask em, but I figured the blogosphere would probably have a better answer, quicker…so let me know!


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11 thoughts on “Television News, New Year's Eve, and a Question

  1. Dave says:

    Pacific is almost the last time zone to get a “New Years”. By the time you see it on the West Coast, it’s happened in most of the rest of the world by a good 10 or 12 hours. Or greater like in the case of Sydney, nearly a day ahead, 19 hours to be exact.

    Conspiracy? I don’t think so. We’re you watching CNN at 2100 your time, you would have seen Anderson Cooper about an hour into ninety minutes live from Times Square, right in the thick of it. It passed on BBC World in the afternoon your time with little fanfare. CNN showed clips from most major cities as did the Beeb. Had something happened in Berlin or Paris, it would have happened at 1600 your time. Plenty enough time for reporting that something had happened.

    The local affiliates had short programs in Seattle, primarily focusing on live coverage of the events at Seattle Center, even reporting on a last minute no fly zone over downtown. For the most part, people just don’t watch those kind of shows anymore.

    Dave

  2. Both theories work for me: the conspiracy and the idea that people just don’t watch that kind of stuff any more. But I think the only reason that people don’t watch that stuff any more is that CNN et al have become so ratings-hungry that they don’t remember how to give us what we want. Personally, I can’t stand seeing re-runs of news programs from earlier in the day. I’d much rather see some live New Year’s coverage, a shot of a sunset, or whatever. But that doesn’t get good ratings. Maybe I’m just not mainstream enough for TV these days, but I sure liked it the way they used to do it a lot better.

  3. Adrian Hall says:

    May I be so bold as to share a surreal moment from Jos

  4. Why is this surreal? Spain does have a king, does it not?

  5. Yeah, I know we’re last, but …this is the first year we’ve had NOTHING about New Year’s Eve on the television. I’d hate to think it’s because the news organizations seriously believed that a re run of Great Van Susteren or Aaron Brown somehow rated higher on the Pacific Coast than pictures of the New Year’s rolling across the country. I mean, I’ve NEVER been without those pictures for the past 25 years or so. It was really odd to not have them as part of the evening.

  6. ben says:

    i seem to recall it differently

  7. Earl Neller says:

    I live on the West Coast, and I was disappointed when CNN’s coverage stopped at the celebrations in the Midwest. I preferred CNN’s broadcast, if only because they had cameras on location in some interesting places. As for me, I would have enjoyed chatting with the crowd at Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, where Hemingway used to hang out, rather than watching drag queens drop a slipper. I would have enjoyed seeing what was happening in St. George, Utah where they have a First Night celebration that’s a lot of fun. My complements to the Spanish language channel Univision for hosting a party with some well known television personalities who can be very entertaining at times (such as Lili Estefan of El Gordo y La Flaca), along with numerous live performances from some very popular Latin entertainers. I especially enjoyed Univision’s coverage of Midnight in Puerto Rico, where the crowd sang Auld Lang Syne. It brought back memories not evoked by the events covered at other places. I couldn’t care less about a bunch of shivering people in New York City, packed together like a bunch of sardines, waving wildly trying to get on camera, listening to television people being less than interesting, and watching a ball drop. I’d rather see people dancing. I’d rather hear people singing Auld Lang Syne. I’d like to have someone say a prayer. I’d like to know what was happening at the leprosy settlements at Carville and Kalaupapa. Those are my thoughts.

  8. http://www.brentandtimmy.com
    Live New Years Show

    You are right.

    There isn’t a lot of coverage of Live New Year’s celebrations from around the world.

    About two year’s ago, we were watching the ball drop from New York on TV. After we saw that, there wasn’t a single thing to watch live until Los Angeles. We were BORED OUT OF OUR MINDS!

    So we decided to do something about this. Our original plan was to have a Live New Year’s broadcast nonstop from Kiribati to Pago Pago through all the different time zones. We thought we would test it out this year to see if anybody out there finds some entertainment value in our outrageous antics.

    The show is not for children, it’s for adults. The language is probably not much worse than you might hear at your local pub at happy hour. But you wouldn’t bring your children to a bar at happy hour, now would you?

    All the warnings are on the page because if we happen to accidently say the “F” word, we don’t want to have to appear in your locals court to try to drag your butts into the current century. Caveat (Cont)emptor! (Let the easily offended please stay away)

    So, if you are looking for something new in entertainment this New Years, tune in to the Brent and Timmy Live New Year’s Show.

    Live New Years
    http://www.brentandtimmy.com
    Live New Years

  9. Good News!

    The web server is finally up and working. We should be able to put up a test video stream within the next week.

    We hope that you will all be able to watch The Live New Years Show at our website.

    Please note that you must be an adult in the place that you are connecting from. Also note that you must agree to receive the adult humor and content which is contained in The Brent and Timmy Live New Year’s Show

    There is a countdown to the start of our show so you can be ready for the start of our show no matter what time zone you are in.

    Happy New Years 2007!!!

    ~Brent and Timmy

  10. Jose says:

    You are absolutely right, there is nothing more tedious and depressing then to see all the networks in their provincial agenda for new years eve clebrations. As an anthropologist I am appalled at the narrowness of mind that permeates the new years eve atmosphere in the states. Ideally new years eve is the best occasion for expanding our global culture, unfortunately isolationism has a very strong grip on our media.

  11. Barbara Mayer says:

    Help! I was in Madrid Spain for New Years Eve. I flipped thru tv specials only to find a male acapella singing group performing “Yesterday” I need to get hold of a copy of this video. Any suggestions how to locate this? It would much appreciated. Thanks What is the name of this group?