August 1999

Technology for technologies sake...

    If there is one thing that technology has really enabled, it's doing something for no other purpose than because you can. Now, I'm not talking about cool things like going to the Moon or anything of that nature, I'm talking about totally trivial things. Let me give you an example... Think back to about 10-15 years ago, and think about what the nightly news used to be like, specifically your local network news. Remember how it was usually a pretty big deal when they would go on location and cover some news event live? Now watch the evening news tonight, and time how much of it actually is done in the newsroom (specifically the stories); not much, eh? It's almost a complete turnaround; if they spent 15 minutes in the studio, and 5 minutes live in the past, it's more like 15 minutes live and 5 minutes in the studio now. Normally this wouldn't particularly bother me, but sometimes the way they do things is almost laughable; like a train derails somewhere, so they cover the story live from the train station... Sure, it has nothing to do with the actual train that derailed, but it's so cool! And then they do something even MORE worthless, and will show you one of the trains at the yard and say something totally meaningless like "...the train, much like the ones behind me...". I mean, c'mon! Most of the time they're standing in front of freight cars, when the train that crashes was a passenger train, so sure, they're both trains, but they're really nothing alike!
    Or how about when the go down to the hospital when some accident happens, and broadcast some 'update' that really is something like "...nothing has changed yet, but we'll be sure to let you know when it does...". The worst part about this kind of thing is when the anchors start actually having a dialog with the reported, asking questions. Many times I get the distinct feeling the reported has no idea how to answer the question, and they just make up a reasonable answer - could there possibly be any more worthless piece of information available?
    Of course, this usually isn't a problem the network nightly news has (the big network one), just because their stories usually are pretty big instead of the tale of someone rescuing a kitten from a tree. Instead, they go overboard on CG (computer graphics); with CNN and MSNBC topping the list. These places must just dream of big events like the Gulf War - remember all the crazy intro's the used to have before they would cover a story? They would say something like "... and now lets go to Bob in Baghdad." and then some crazy CG jet plane would fly over the screen as a transition to reporter.
    The biggest offender of this phenomena has to be the NFL though; have you watched a game lately? They have crazy 3D stats that move around on the screen, make noise like factory doors opening and closing, with rendered versions of the players and their respective helmets (which clash with sparks flying everywhere)... Truly impressive. Why, they've went way beyond just giving you some information you might be interested in, and have covered it with as much sugar and sparkles as possible. Of course, this seems to be true not just of football, but of most sports in general... I cringe when I think of what the next Olympics is going to be like...