In Houston, KIAH-TV Channel 39 will be replacing its traditional newscast with a lot of animated graphics, man-on-the-street sound bites and no anchor. The pilot was delivered by a company called, “NewsFix”.
In one story, the narrator refers to terrorists as “bozos.” In another, a clip of fictional boxer Ivan Drago from Rocky IV is mixed into a story about the West getting tough with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. There are even clips from cartoon shows like Ren and Stimpy and animations from the JibJab website.
The pilot starts with a map of the Houston area with scattered icons representing the news stories to come. As the narrator introduces a story, an icon animates to reveal a series of clips with natural sound and sound bites to tell it. The video then squeezes back to a graphic screen, the narrator introduces the next clip and another icon comes to life.
Weather is handled with a split screen. One half shows dripping water; the other displays text, while a soothing voice delivers the forecast. Sports receive a similar split-screen treatment, with scores side-by-side with game highlights.
“It will be a fast-paced news product and we will be breaking with local news conventions,” KIAH General Manager Roger Bare explained in a memo to employees. To the TV station’s credit, the newscast in mired in last place in the nation’s 10th largest TV market.
It’s another attempt to “FOXify” local news, entertainment and glitz over substance and the continuation of loss of journalistic integrity. You can be assured that some companies, notably Barrington, Granite & Sinclair, will be looking at the experiment to see if they can utilize it to their financial advantage and further devastate their work force.