Lynda Hirsch on Television -- QA

By Lynda Hirsch

December 5, 2015 4 min read

Q: I am a creature of habit. Every day when I come home from work I sit down and watch the DVR of my favorite show — which is "The Young and the Restless." Today I start to play it and instead of "The Young and the Restless" I see a news story about the mass killing in California. They kept playing the same news over and over. I was furious. Why do stations do that? They also did it in the evening. — Chantell of Rochester, New York

A: Before I answered this I had to take a deep breath and step off my soapbox. The network did just what they should have done. In journalism school I waffled between wanting to be a political reporter or an entertainment jouro. I chose entertainment. And luckily, entertainment chose me. But the news' higher calling is to keep government honest. It is called the fourth estate, the fourth arm of the government because it serves as a check against the government and keeps the populace informed and empowered.

Yesterday's tragedy was a story that changed minute by minute. Reporters and law enforcement called it a "fluid" situation, meaning everything they were saying could be proven wrong and could change in a moment, and they asked for patience from viewers and the public.

Yes, it is frustrating when a favorite show is bumped off the air. I feel the same way when a Sunday-night football game makes "The Good Wife" start late, which means my DVR will not get all of the show. I now set my DVR to record all of Sunday night.

When a major news story breaks you do not know in advance that your show has not been recorded. Beyond that, watching the same information for hours can be mind-numbing. Yes, in the beginning so much of the reporting was of the "I don't know. We are not certain" variety. Better to preface the information with that instead of ending up in the situation CNN found itself in in 2013. So much of its late breaking news was incorrect. Death tolls, the false announcement of a death and incorrect election information made CNN an easy target for those who are not fans of the network. Since Jeff Zucker took over as the head of the network things have changed. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper et al make sure to let folks know "this has not been confirmed."

That is a major step forward. CNN, Fox and MSNBC do news 24/7. So, you might ask, why do the basic network channels also cover it? For a few reasons. News really is the crowning jewel of the networks. They may be delighted when a scripted or reality show is in the top 10 — but they're over the moon when their news is No. 1.

From a business standpoint, the networks hope when they break into a show for a breaking story, you will not change the channel. Perhaps you will even decide to get your evening news from the network on a regular basis. They recycle the film footage and sound bites because people just tuning in, perhaps getting home from work, may not know what happened. The networks did an amazing job of keeping up with the horrific story yesterday.

As for "The Young and the Restless," the episode that was bumped aired the next day. In the future, you can always check to see if an episode you missed airs on Pop Network, which typically replays new Y&R episodes at 7 p.m. the same day.

To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: North Charleston

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