Media Moment – The Pointless Live Cross
September 15, 2009
Bill Ralston has blogged about the news-filler -- the pointless live cross. I feel similarly.
Which reminded me I should post some of my older stuff on here -- this is a Media Moment I did a while ago on that subject that led to a story on Media 7, that I’ll post at the bottom and the Media 7 panel discussion that followed
First Up -- - Behind the News Part One: The Pointless Live Cross
The PTC or piece-to-camera is an unusual beast.
It used to be that the rule of reporting was that the reporter was not to put themselves in the story at all unless there was a very good reason.
Accepted reasons were:
1 -- There were absolutely NO other possible pictures to use to make the point.
2 -- If the reporter was at a place people had to see to know they were actually there – like on Mt Everest or something similarly impressive.
And that was it. Otherwise you were meant to use pictures that added to the story. That has rather changed, in fact now it is pretty much mandatory for reporters to wander all over the story.
Once upon a time (up till about two years ago) the point of news was that people had spent all day gathering the most pertinent pictures and expert comment together into a package that told the story with the greatest economy and authority. It could then be reviewed before transmission by senior journalists and exist as an example of the very best communication that the station could produce – harnessing the talents of camera operators, editors, reporters, producers etc.
This approach makes a lot of sense.
Even if the product is often nonsense it was carefully assembled nonsense. Now though, with the current rage and compulsion for live crosses this is all out the window. Completely.
Now, rather than look old fashioned with a carefully researched and complied account they will cross LIVE to someone to tell us what happened. To ‘tell’ us. As opposed to ‘show’.
Therefore doing away with the thing telly is most useful for – pictures – and replacing it with a live shot of someone stuttering, and scared witless while trying to convey complex information while put on the spot in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
And what of worth is ‘live’ about this? Surely live crosses are only actually useful, if something is happening. There is no point crossing live to the scene where something happened hours ago. Sure, it is a live shot – but to a dead area. The ‘live’ shots that they once filmed during the day and compiled into a report are more ‘live’ than some person standing in a spot where something happened hours ago. And without stutters, mistakes and that possum-in-the-headlights look that reporters have when they are getting hit with the big fuck-off truck of half a million people looking at them and judging that they know is happening as they try to remember what they are meant to be saying.
Just what exactly are they trying to communicate – that they managed to get there way there, but that getting back to the office was a bit beyond them?
I love live crosses – love them to pieces- I collect them. One of my favourites was when a ship got into trouble at sea. They crossed live to the shoreline and a reporter in a news jacket pointed at the water and said: “2 kilometers that-away a ship is in trouble.” They may as well have stayed at the newsroom and pointed in the direction and made it three kilometers that-away.
Ha – sounds crazy – but in actual fact, that is exactly what they do do sometimes. Often they will cross live to their own newsroom to speak to a reporter. Very rarely is this for new information. Often they will cross from the news-anchor to the newsroom – a matter of feet away. They do this to then be told that the reporter is on top of the story and following developments. Actually, that is what the viewers are doing. Why don’t they just cross to a viewer while they are at it?
Dallow: “We’re now crossing live to Margaret who is in her kitchen preparing dinner. Margaret, you’ve been at the scene today, how are the spuds looking?”
The pointless live cross is being elevated to an artform – to the extent that now, not content to do them one at a time they now make little grids of reporters all around the Country. They line them up like celebrity squares or the opening titles to the Brady Bunch just to show us that they have lots of people standing around at 6pm around the country. Thank you for that information.
Live is meant to mean immediate. So when the Swine Flu cases were suspected amongst Rangitoto College pupils it made very little point for Wendy Petrie to be live outside Rangitoto College at 6pm. Especially seeing that at 6pm nothing happens at a school. And doubly especially seeing that the kids in question were in quarantine and specifically not allowed to go near their school. So in actual fact there was no place in the world less sensible to be ‘live’ if you were doing a story on the kids.
Dallow: Crossing live To Wendy now.
Petrie: Hi Simon . I am live from the one place we absolutely know the kids will not be. As you can see they aren’t here and for some reason no-one else is at 6pm either. Back to you Simon.
As stupid as this sounds, this is what they did, except they actually had Wendy cross live to another reporter somewhere else similarly vital.
Soooooooooooo -- - next time you see a live cross ask your self if it was necessary, helpful, had any point, added a single thing or was just for vanity and attempted relevance?
The use of the live cross has grown up for a bunch of factors – building a sense of immediacy -- -building individual reporter ‘brands’ up, and, also I think that once they spend all that money on a live eye system they then have to use it to justify it.
So they end up using it for nonsense. Maybe it is like traffic cops having a quota. Anyway -- -If you have any examples of your favourite pointless live crosses I’d love to hear them?
So -- -this rant led to this piece:
And then this panel discussion here where Paul Patrick of OneNews explained that they feel that the audience like the approach. He believes it is best, and I like Paul and believe that he believes that. But my 2c is that it is this kind of stuff that may be leading to people switching off from the news. Your thoughts?