I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Big Hair and Lapels – Action Newscast!

by Kollin Holtz
July 17, 2013

This is Network Awesome, a new kind of online TV experience. Tune in at five and ten o’clock, or any other time that might be convenient for you! Today’s topic is Action News. It’s the land of big hair, lapels, b-roll, and the most regal of curiosities, the Weatherman. Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay. Pay attention, because you might even have a crush on yours. Coming up later—how your local news station makes money from cable! Read on.

The news, both at the local and national (international too) level have shown us big moments throughout time. Starting as news reels, opening the Hollywood blockbusters during their golden age, the format moved to television in the 50’s and 60’s, and is currently making another transition to online video and blogs. The news has provided us with shared moments like the Hindenburg crash, the moon landing, and what sugary treats you should avoid this summer, but I don’t recall it ever being as popular or iconic as it is right now, if it ever was before. If the news was iconic, it wasn’t to the extent that it is both glorified and parodied today with the new Anchorman movie on the way, Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show “News Room,” Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” and “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” it has to feel like primetime for news reporters everywhere.

It has been a long time since I sat down and watched the local news. Lots of people I asked (and by “lots,” I mean my roommate laying on the couch) laughed when I asked them when the last time they watched local news was, simply replying, “I can’t remember.” Watching again, I was reminded of Mary Van Note’s joke about women news reporters and the affect lapels have on someone’s credibility. Jacket lapels are “formed by folding over the front edges of the jacket or coat and sewing them to the collar.” Obviously lapels, among many other physical attributes, have no bearing on someone’s ability to report the news. That being said, I was fascinated by the amount of leg I was seeing.

Memory is faulty, and there’s always the off chance I was completely oblivious to such things growing up and watching the news with adults, but I distinctly remember a rigid two or three shot of the news desktop up, and clean, single medium shots (belt up) of individual reporters.  Shooting styles always change, the convention of it always changes, but trousered or not, I don’t think I’ve seen a male news anchors legs anywhere near as often as their female counterparts. It’s just a goofy observation that I can offer no factual data for.

A Local Action News station’s main purpose is to cover local events and news on a city, county, or occasionally a state level.  Whatever segments your local news shows you, know that the person reporting the story probably had a major role in editing the final piece if it wasn’t edited entirely by themselves. All the footage that you see in-between their questions and interviewee responses is called “b-roll.” B-roll is often a static shot of whatever they’re reporting on. It can be a static shot of a burning house, but usually it’s a static shot of a convenience store, or something equally exciting. The picture quality is often grainy and lacks any apparent connection to the story at hand except that it was taped at the scene worthy of reporting on. Everything filmed is archived, and b-roll can be re-used for later stories if there is not enough time to get it at a later date.

When stories are made outside the studio and people report from the field, that’s when b-roll is captured the most. The on location video capture of interviews and b-roll is called “Electronic News-gathering,” or ENG for short. When a team of approximately two to three people are in charge of assembling a story, especially if it involves interviewing local power players, it makes sense how something like b-roll can be easily overlooked. Sometimes interviews require an appointment, and sometimes (most of the time) those appointments get pushed back. B-roll is gathered as an afterthought in news to cut out an interviewees “ahs, ums, and you knows” as well as other affectations of speech viewers might find annoying.

Many local news stations make a pretty penny from cable. Stations do have their free broadcast via antenna / digital tuner, but sometimes people find the connection on cable is clearer, and opt for that. The result is that people who purchase basic cable (cable that typically comes with all the local channels and a select few cable channels) actually pay twice for the same broadcast. First they pay via their tax money, then through the cable network. The cable company doesn’t get all your money, because they have to pay your local news station royalties for “syndication,” or re-broadcasting rights. Basically, the cable company didn’t put any effort into the production of the news segment, but they did gain subscribers due to their content, and therefore owe them a piece of the pie. That sweet, money pie.

As far as having a crush on your respective weatherpersons, you are on your own. Are they fair weather friends, or do they stick with you through the dark and stormy nights, no matter how much the locals berate them for their seemingly shoddy forecasts? Either way, the local news is pretty all right, and it’s nice to know it has some legs to stand on.




Crouch, Michelle. "13 Things Your TV Weatherman Won't Tell You." Reader's Digest. 07/08 2012: n. page. Web. 11 Jul. 2013. <http://www.rd.com/slideshows/13-things-your-tv-weatherman-wont-tell-you/

"Electronic news-gathering." Wikipedia. Internet: 2004.

"News Reel." Wikipedia. Internet: 2003.

Van Note, Mary, perf. Mary Van Note Live at the SF Punch Line. YouTube, 2012. Web. 13 Jul 2013.

Carell , Steve, perf. i love lamp. Dir. Adam McKay. Dreamworks, 2011. Web. 11 Jul 2013.


Kollin Holtz is a comedian, writer, and filmmaker living in a closet under the stairs in San Francisco, CA. Check out his website,www.kollinholtz.com for updates on his shows, and his podcast “Closet Talk With Kollin Holtz.” You may also follow him on twitter @KollinHoltz if ya fancy.