Today Tonight: journalistic slop that can’t even sit on the fence
To be fair, this loathing could arguably be aimed at A Current Affair or 60 Minutes. But Today Tonight has a special something that really wins the race to the bottom of the pan.
I hate Today Tonight. It makes me curse aloud if I am unfortunate enough to see the logo arrive on the screen. It’s not new news that this is a sensationalistic toilet that uses terms like ‘journalism’ and ‘agenda’ to suggest credibility. But what I can’t stand is that it simply wastes an opportunity to do something more meaningful.
I don’t really care what that is. It could be taking the higher ground and genuinely educating or bringing society up to speed on issues that the masses could/should care about; really own some credible perspectives. Alternatively go completely overboard and be TV’s National Enquirer.
Give us extreme sensationalism that we know is utter rubbish but is entertaining and has a clever slant. There could be some underlying innuendo that alludes to an important truth among the more obvious piss- taking. But no. Today Tonight’s theme can be summarized as unsubstantiated blame. It pretty much works as follows: pick a topic – any topic.
During lunch, everyone votes on an easy option as to why that topic is a problem. The problem has to have been loosely associated with the topic, though that can be as broad as is necessary.
Then present topic and problem in a pathetically authoritarian manner that suggests to the viewer that Today Tonight must surely be right.
My whining could justifiably be categorized as naive as this is actually just about getting ratings. But so many topic areas that are chosen are not even smart commercial choices for the network.
How often does Today Tonight take any evil sweet or fatty food for its focus? They roll out some poor overweight kid whose parents are a great ad for license application when having children. They too look like they could do with the odd brisk walk around the block. But what is the real cause of all this unhealthy trauma? That’s right – the evil sweet/fatty food they hold up in their chubby fingers.
And the Today Tonight reporter stares into the camera and says something like ‘…and they are allowed to sell this to Australian children?’ Not once does he suggest that the parents should stop feeding their kid with a shovel.
So why is this commercially a little daft? Well, chances are, the evil product is one of the advertisers helping fund the production of this drivel. I am not for one second suggesting that Today Tonight should produce favourable content for those who advertise.
But at least have the smarts to provide a balanced perspective so that the segment provides some objectivity. Instead they create a huge amount of friction between those who fund the production of the content and have the front to use ‘journalistic integrity’ as the rationale. Today Tonight, striving to make us all dumber.
David Gaines is the outgoing CEO of media agency Maxus.
- This article first appeared in Encore magazine’s Love & Hate feature. Download the iPad edition, now free.