Electronic Magazines: Soft News Programs on Network Television

Electronic Magazines: Soft News Programs on Network Television

Electronic Magazines: Soft News Programs on Network Television

Electronic Magazines: Soft News Programs on Network Television

Synopsis

This study examines the phenomenon of the "electronic magazine" and shows how the soft news programs affect the public's view of American politics and culture. Maintaining the distinction between the syndicated, tabloid-style programming (whose survival depends almost entirely on ratings success) and the more responsibly conceived network magazine programming, Spragens provides a thorough content analysis of "60 Minutes", "Dateline NBC", "20/20", and similar network series. His study traces the development of the television magazine genre from the original "60 Minutes" through the current crop of news programs; it tracks the soft/hard or sensational/serious content dichotomy and its relation to ratings; and it draws conclusions about the trends in soft news programming and their impact on the American public.

Excerpt

The 1992 "60 Minutes" broadcasts included numerous segments with political significance, as the following examples indicate.

A January 5, 1992, "Time Bombs" segment narrated by Morley Safer dealt with efforts to get rid of chemical weapons in the United States and the former Soviet Union. Safer interviewed General Harry Karegeannes at a Utah storage site. Karegeannes cautioned that great care should be used in moving stored chemical weapons from storage sites to other locations. Safer also interviewed Dr. Matthew Meselson, a Harvard University scientist, who said it was never determined how to destroy such weapons; General Walter Busby, program manager for the Chemical Weapons Demilitarization Program, who spoke of the difficulty of destroying weapons; Charles and Kathy Flood, protestors against the building at a Kentucky site of an incinerator to destroy the weapons; and General Mersyn Jackson, an emergency planner in Kentucky, who was working on the incinerator project. The segment, which provided some useful information, did analyze some problems found with disarmament in this arms industry category. It was analytical and informative, as a good module should be.

Also on January 5, Lesley Stahl did a series of interviews on "Children of the Berlin Wall" which dealt with children removed from their parents by the former East German government. Stahl interviewed Gabriele Yonan, a survivor of the Communist regime in the former East Germany; Jurgen Schmidt, a spokesman for the . . .

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