News, the BBC, and Creating the Future
Bjorner, Susanne, Searcher
Whenever anyone asks me what I miss most about the United States, now that I am living the largest part of the year in Spain, the answer is easy: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Watching this evening news program on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) had become a ritual for me, my husband, and several of our friends and family as long ago as when Robert McNeil shared the hour. Until recently, I knew that I could call my mother at 7:00 each evening--that she, also, was just finishing up the program on her local PBS station. One of the first things I always did when checking into a hotel on business travel or personal commutes was to find PBS and the evening news schedule so that I could be in front of a TV between 6:00 and 7:00, or whatever the local broadcast time was.
The first 10 minutes were inviolate. They gave me a quick and unsensationalized summary of the major news events of the day and indicated what three or four stories would be covered in depth during the remainder of the hour. They also indicated the order of coverage--no teasers here as on commercial stations. If, occasionally, I had no interest in one segment, or I absolutely had to be away from the TV for a portion of the hour, I could choose my time accordingly.
When in Spain ...
With a daily work schedule split by a siesta, evening news comes later in Spain--9:00 p.m.--and doesn't fit my daily rhythm at all. Nor does the tenor and timbre of the noisy Spanish programs, which all too often imitate the worst aspects of U.S. television. But with two satellite dishes on the roof, I have choices. PBS live broadcasts do not stretch across the Atlantic to the common folk, but I get CNN Europe, Danish state channels 1 and 2, and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC).
DR (Danmarks Radio, as the commercial-flee state system is still called) matches the tempo of The NewsHour closest. Though it's only a half hour and tends to become bogged down in parochial minutiae, I can still get the gist of international events as well as a daily laugh while meteorologists dissect European weather patterns and speculate whether tomorrow will be partly cloudy with some sun or partly sunny with some clouds. The news, together with much feature programming, and the opportunity for me to retain my ability to understand and speak Danish, make it worth the 300 euro annual license fee that we pay DR for access.
Then there is CNN. Years ago, when I first toured CNN in Atlanta, I was told that the European version of CNN was 90 percent the same as the American version, and I remember seeing American football scores scroll across the screen in hotels I visited in the early days. That's no longer true. The CNN center in Lon don has different personalities and follows British and European time schedules, though Larry King does come on live in the middle of our night. The brassy tone is the same as that in the U.S., however, and while I check it for news, my tolerance rarely lasts longer than 20 minutes.
So we come to the BBC, all four channels, which show news at a more natural time for me (London being situated only one time zone removed from us). Most of my British expatriate friends here watch the BBC and my husband and I do occasionally. But, as opposed to Denmark, where I have spent much time off and on, I don't have a long-term relationship with England, and the local news drones on, leaving me with little understanding and less interest.
All the News, Anytime
High-speed Internet changes the news-watching experience considerably. It makes watching less important. My husband starts each day in front of his computer, where he dashes through a slew of news sites (his World News bookmark folder holds 15). I have less tolerance for site-to-site scans and usually rely on Slate Magazine's Today's Newspapers: A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers, which arrives in my e-mail box before noon, often before I get up. …