“SWITCHING GEARS” HURTS MY EARS

There’s a 5 & 6pm newscast here in Cincinnati that I find myself watching… because it’s so bad. From anchors sporting the latest Wal-Mart fashions and looking as disheveled as a hooker who had a productive night, to a weatherman who, literally, yells at you throughout his forecast, thinking he’s sporting a sexy, booming FM radio voice, but in fact, is just, plain yelling.  The anchors start to mirror his absurd volume and the whole show becomes a big yelling fest. But let’s switch gears for a second as there’s one pet peeve I have that gets me yelling back at the TV screen. The anchors are constantly ad-libbing that cliche phrase “switching gears” between stories. It’s a verbal device they use to bridge two unrelated stories to make the transition feel a bit less awkward. As an example, going from a double fatal car crash story to the birth of a new elephant at the zoo is an obvious “switching gears” story. The problem is easily avoided by a producer who understands the art of stacking stories in a newscast.

When you hear anchors forced to utter the phrase “switching gears”, you immediately know the show’s producer is weak, inexperienced, lazy, or all of the above. Because it happens so often in this show, it’s safe to bet that:

  1. the anchors don’t talk to the producer after the newscast about the awkward transition they had to make in today’s show to ensure (not insure) it doesn’t happen again (remember, “It’s my face out there!”);
  2. the anchors themselves aren’t on the computer before the show doing their own minor rewrites and fixing the problem themselves;
  3. the executive producer clearly isn’t proofing scripts or would catch the problem – thus either writing a smooth transition or moving stories around to avoid it altogether;
  4. newswriting isn’t all that important in this newsroom and so the issue is overlooked again and again.

With stations bragging about their powerful “storytelling” abilities – a Magid mantra – I hesitate to point out that the phrase “shifting gears” is not part of any well-written story not involving the Indianapolis 500.  In fact, these anchors are misusing the idiom. “Switching gears” while driving a car refers to either speeding up or slowing the vehicle down. Perhaps “changing lanes” would be the more accurate ad-lib in a newscast since anchors are changing subjects rather than speeding up or slowing down the pace of their prompter reading.

Look, I’m not immune to these types of  mistakes. At my first job at WLWT5, I once wrote “on a brighter note” to transition from a Holocaust story to a local festival.  I was an intern. It was pointed out to me well before it hit air and I never repeated that poor choice of wordsmanship. But up the dial a few notches, they just don’t seem to learn.

I’m curious if the good folks at this particular affiliate have any clue how bush league their newscast appears when these little foibles are allowed to continue on a daily basis because the news director doesn’t watch his own newscast. Will we see a change? Well, as these news anchors have also stated in the past, “only time will tell.

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