When the TV show “Entertainment Tonight” premiered in 1981, a new word was born: infotainment. The combination word implied that you – the audience – were being informed and there was entertainment involved. “Entertainment Tonight” was born out of the desire
for people to catch up on the celebrity gossip they had been reading in publications including Star, The National Enquirer and People or Us magazines.
Add cable TV in the mix from the mid-1980s and you have a mix-master of news, entertainment, documentaries and much more. The lines between news and entertainment have been blurred forever. Longtime journalists and purists who love the news will never call entertainment “news.”
This is difficult to write, having been a local radio news anchor and reporter for more than 30 years: A new staff member – a TV news anchor – joining a local news team is NOT a news story: never has been and never should be in the news. I almost drove off the road when I heard in the middle of a half-hour block of radio news, the local radio reporter doing a 45-second story that included a few sound bites with the new local TV anchor. To the reporter’s credit, she TRIED to make the story somewhat newsworthy by writing about how reporters and anchors have to get to know the neighborhoods of the town where they are working (if they are new to the town). Listening to the anchor say in the story, “Like, I’m so happy to be here,” made my heart sink. I truly believe management told the news department to do that story to “sell” the new TV anchor to the audience and the reporter had no choice but to do that job. It’s very sad. What that ‘story’ is – is a promo – nothing more.
TV news has evolved into entertainment with a little news thrown in. Of course the bit of news in the newscast is usually fear and loathing, blood and guts stories. News of substance rarely exists on local TV newscasts. It’s sad that the advertisers and sales departments have influenced news departments. It’s all about the bottom line: celebrity (and sex) sells – so bring it into the newscast.
Now as a PR consultant, I have to find news angles to pitch to reporters, producers, writers, and editors that I hope will be of interest to a particular audience and benefit a client. It’s not an easy game. The twists and turns you need to make in order to get a reporter to do a story can be quite time-consuming. You get turned down more than you can imagine – but you keep plugging away. If only I could get a client to go on a date with a Khardashian while they have dinner with the new TV anchor in town.