Magazine article American Journalism Review

A TV Tabloid Vows to Clean Up Its Act

Magazine article American Journalism Review

A TV Tabloid Vows to Clean Up Its Act

Article excerpt

"Hard Copy," the syndicated tabloid show known more for its stripper profiles and trailer park murder Mystries than its hard-hitting investigations, has vowed to sober up. It's new executive producers say the days of sleaze, gratuitous violence and crime scene re-creations are over.

Now in its fifth season, "Hard Copy" still fills much of its airtime with celebrities and scandal (during one week, viewers saw a multipart interview with yet another former Michael Jackson employee). But based on a recent spate of shows, the program has broadened its scope.

Among other changes, newly hired Executive Producers Linda Ellman and Linda Bell Blue launched a consumer unit soon after they took over last fall. Reporters depict an injustice and encourage viewers to demand action from Congress. In one case, it was puppies being sold for meat; in another it was a group of pilots' widows whose husbands died in an airplane crash just hours before their supplementary insurance was to kick in.

While "Hard Copy" is still no more likely to delve into the war in Bosnia or health care reform, the program has taken stabs at straight news coverage. Recently it devoted shows to the Los Angeles wildfires ("To Hell and Back") and the California earthquake ("Nightmare in Paradise").

"We don't profess to be high-brow," shrugs Ellman. Adds anchor Terry Murphy: "Network people still try to look at us as if we are doing the evening news. I don't think they have the ability to look at it our way."

Ellman, who left "Entertainment Tonight," and Bell, a "Hard Copy" veteran, lead a crew of mostly women. That, they say, gives "Hard Copy" a sensitivity it was missing.

The producers are hoping that their soul-searching will boost "Hard Copy" in the ratings. The show has gained nearly a million new viewers since January 1993 and now reaches 6. …

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