Not Ready For Prime Time

October 21, 2001
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From Jim Metrock:

On Sunday, September 30, the WB Network and Channel One produced and
aired an hour special on the terrorist attack. (7 p.m.CDT WB Network)
It was billed as an hour where young people could express themselves about
the changed world they now live in.  Indeed, the show was named "The
Day It All Changed."

The WB Network has been a major advertiser on Channel One for years.  (They
have used Channel One to promote their violent "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" and
the sex and drug-saturated "Dawson’s Creek" to the captive audience.
Warner Brothers movie studio has also advertised their age-inappropriate fare
via Channel One.)

What I saw on Sunday night had very little to do with children, much more
to do with Channel One’s marketing efforts, and a whole lot to do with the
self-promotion of Lisa Ling, a former Channel One personality and now a member
of "The View" on ABC.

It was typical Channel One content.  They ran old footage (some as far
back as 1994!) of trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  They interviewed
some Marines. They talked to a Muslim student in Michigan. Channel One’s Washington
connections got them Senator John McCain.  He answered questions posed
to him from the studio audience.

If there were middle school-aged young people in the audience, then they were
not allowed to talk. Weren’t the children the whole purpose of the show? The
youngest person in the audience who got to say anything was 16. Overwhelming
the people who asked questions or made comments were in their twenties or late
teens. It was a college crowd which was bizarre. (Very possibly high school
and middle school students did not want to be a part of any Channel One
program.  After all, they watch the show mainly because they are forced
to by the Channel One contract.)

After an hour of promoting Channel One and Lisa Ling, Ms. Ling asked the hand-picked
studio audience for their comments. She did this with only two minutes left
in the show.  It was like, "Enough about me and Channel One,
what about you?" The executives at Channel One have brought Ling back
to the show before to try to revive the show, but Ling has little in common
with teenagers and much less in common with middle school students.

Above: Lisa Ling filling up the screen at the intro.

Below: These pictures are from a 1994 Channel One story that shows Lisa Ling
in Afghanistan. The special replays this story in its entirety. This is typical
of many Channel One "news" reports.  Channel One
reporters step all over their stories in an effort to get "face time."  I
exaggerate only slightly when I say Afghanistan occasionally gets into the
camera frame.  

Valuable time is taken to show a pensive Lisa Ling going into danger. She
is the "star" of this report. (After watching over 500 Channel One
shows, I can tell you that this is typical of most of their "reporters." They
are the story.) We the audience and children at school must see their reactions
and their facial expressions as they cover a story.  This helps to
increase the their popularity with students forced to watch Channel One.

Above: We see Lisa Ling in a car traveling in the Afghan countryside. I see
this sloppy production all the time on Channel One.  You see
a little of Afghanistan out the window.  When you get to be an on-air
personality on Channel One, one of the perks is the ability to get the camera
person to do a lot of close-ups.

Above: Parts of this scene are shown THREE times on this WB/Channel One
show. Ling is smiling at an Afghan young man who is also smiling. The young
man is carrying a large gun and he points it at the camera man.  Ling
says, "Oh my God" and tells us that the young man was threatening
them.  I doubt it.  This is weak stuff. It is important to Channel One
to make the student viewers think that the Channel One "reporters" are
in peril and in danger of losing their lives.  

Above: Instead of showing their driver taking time to pray to Allah (which
a Muslim must do at least five times a day), students must see Lisa Ling talking
about it and then the camera slowly moves off Ling to the driver as he walks
to the left of this picture.  Ling dominates this scene as she does most
scenes, as do most Channel One on-air personalities.

Above: Over and over, Lisa Ling’s face fills the screen.  Afghanistan
is in the background.

Above: "Oh my God!" Lisa Ling says once again as bomb shells land
down the road. Should the producer have cut out this needless footage and concentrated
more on the footage showing the explosions? Since the Channel One "reporter" is
the star it is absolutely necessary for her to be seen in this shot. Good reporters
try not to inject themselves into the news stories they cover.  Channel One "reporters" do
the exact opposite: their personas are integral to the stories in which they
appear.

Although few adults, and probably few young people, saw this WB special,
it gave people an opportunity to see how Channel One does "news." It
is a celebrity-driven style TV show with these young anchors gobbling up air
time at the expense of the story.

The WB Network should have gathered a group of middle school and high
school young people together and had them talk out their concerns with a respected
journalist. Instead they turned it over to Channel One and they got what
you would expect from Channel One. Young people deserve better than this.