“Now… news that matters to you. This is NSU22 News, working in the spirit of Northwestern.” Purple swirls and dissolves, beauty shots of campus landmarks, the NSU22 logo — all elements of the newscast open for Northwestern State University’s student newscast.
In the late 1980s, news graphics staked their claim as a critical element of TV newscasts. Today, some stations’ graphics help to sensationalize the news product, by adding unnecessary hype, altering mood, while others complement the message by bringing another element of storytelling.
Channel 8 News seems to have the right balance of artistic creativity and to-the-point visualizations. I believe there is nothing wrong with being visually engaging, as long as it does not detract from the news product.
Some people are auditory learners, some require hands on activities, while others must have something explained visually to truly comprehend. Channel 8 often utilizes opportunity to further explain an issue by the use of full screen graphics, over the shoulder images, bulleted lists, and detailed maps. The written word, while powerful, is often inadequate in aiding in the interpretation of information.
Unfortunately, some networks and local stations allow their graphics to take away from the focus of journalism. Their choice in graphics is sometimes distracting or confusing, luring viewers to the newscast for the wrong reasons. Stations must exercise caution in choosing visual elements, as it may cause the reverse effect.
Sometimes while watching FOX News’ ‘Studio B’ and CNN’s ‘Anderson Cooper 360,’ the graphics are so flashy, they become a distraction to the news product. I frequently avoid those shows because the focus is placed on the packaging and little sustenance. Instead of serving as the vehicle for a message, their graphics suck out “nutritional value” before it is digested by the viewer.
At Channel 8, they seem to have a grip on reality. In a world obsessed with “glitz and glam”, blinking lights, and anything shiny, it’s refreshing to see a tasteful approach. While graphics are often viewed as the “curtains in a window,” it seems just the opposite at WFAA. Instead, serving as the structural supports for the pane of glass through which information travels.
Next time you watch a newscast, whether a cable news channel or a local broadcast, decide whether the graphics support the content or detract from it. This might be one indication of the quality of information you digest. If you watch a newscast with distracting, sensational graphics, this might be an instance of putting “lipstick on a pig.”