(Image at left is how ABC News illustrated the story I’m criticizing. Really).
Guys, you don’t come here to hear me rant, do you? Do you? Especially on topics entirely orthogonal to my stated mission of “the intersection of search, media, and technology…and more.” But then again, maybe this falls into “and more.”
OK, so if you don’t want to hear me rant on about how simply awful network news, and in this case, ABC News, has gotten, move right along.
Tonight was one of those nights. At least it only happens once a year or so.
My wife was a producer at CBS News back in the day, when network news meant something, and journalists didn’t excuse themselves for pandering to the lowest common denominator because “the Internet undermined our business model.”
This means she still watches the nightly news, much to my opposition. I find network news broadcasts to be, in the main, derivative, unintelligent, and sensational. There are good pieces in there, and there is good work most certainly, but as every year passes, it’s clear network news has lost its way – no one is taking risks, and everyone is chasing a fractional rating point around the damn drain.
Anyway, tonight my wife was watching ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. This is the same program that I ranted about last week – the same program that sent two extremely intelligent producers to my office to spend an hour taping what became a five second clip with no context, no content, and no value. Anyways.
Tonight the teaser story – the one that producers promote throughout so as to keep an audience till the very end of the broadcast – was called “Science Sheds Light on Christianity’s Biggest Mysteries.” Well, that’s how it was posted to the web, but on air, the piece was boiled down to pretty much this: “We Have Computer Generated Pictures of a Bloody Jesus and We’re Not Afraid to Show Em!”
I can’t find the actual clip on the web – because ABC News’ website is truly awful (no really, look at what it’s featuring tonight, image at left). It has several pieces from tonight’s newscast up, but not this one. Why? Who knows. But the story goes something like this: A new show from National Geographic explores various tenets of Christian belief, including the Shroud of Turin, a cloth reputed by some to have been laid over the corpse of Jesus. The show includes computer animations illustrating that a bloody body may have lain under the cloth. The animations are, well, bloody. And hey, it’s a computer animation of a recently murdered Jesus Christ!! Or at least, it could have been, right? Now THAT’S GOOD TELEVISION!!!!
Well, who knows. ABC News at least raised the question that carbon dating done in the 1980s found the cloth was only 600 or so years old. Barring time travel, it’s pretty certain that Jesus didn’t lay under it. But no matter, because ABC News found someone who claims the carbon dating findings were wrong.
And his proof? Well, as far as I could tell from the piece, which we recorded and watched several times to ensure we didn’t get this wrong – his proof was this: He found a painting that shows there was a shroud covering Jesus, and that painting was dated some 68 years earlier than the earliest carbon dating of the Shroud!
So see? See? That proves it, right?
Ummm…..excuse me but WTF? Erhhm…how exactly does a painting of a shroud being laid over the corpse of Jesus disprove carbon dating?
Well never you mind, the ABC News piece just keeps on keeping on, because after all, the point of it isn’t to get to the truth, or to bring the facts to bear, or to shed light on an important issue. No, the point of the piece is to hook the viewer in the beginning of the newscast with teasers about how new technology has brought us tantalizing new proof of Christ’s death! And then roll the video – there’s a house on fire somewhere, we gotta show it, regardless of news value!
Nowhere in this piece did I see any evidence of journalism. And honestly, if you want to trace the decline of broadcast news, you should probably start there. Stop blaming the Internet and start looking at your own product. It’s a disgrace.