Insider: Polite vs. Pertinent vs. Appropriate

Aug 19, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Our topic today, dear readers, is on-air pleasantries and the subliminal messages they send. “Good morning,” for example.

When one co-worker, perhaps the news reader on a morning show, says, “Good morning, Dan, Sally and John,” before they begin their first headlines segment of the day, it suggests they have not crossed paths, much less conversed, prior to that moment. Is that the message producers really want to send? Especially when all the co-workers are still being wished a “good morning” in the second, third and fourth half-hour segments?

Why not just direct the news reader (or whomever) to look at the camera and say, “Good morning” to the viewers. Isn’t that where the pleasantries would be most effectively aimed anyway? And you’re no longer acting as if there’s no contact between key personnel on the show prior to that moment, which, of course, is absurd.

“I can hardly wait to see that segment,” is another on-air sillyism, to coin a word.

Again, it conveys the sense that co-anchors, allegedly key people in the machinery that gets a show on the air, weren’t all that involved or interested in the process beyond themselves.

Is that a good or productive message to send to viewers when what you want is for them to feel they must stick around to see that segment and that it is as much the anchors’ show as it is the producers’ show?

Would you go to see a movie based on a reviewer saying, “I can’t wait to see that movie”? The Insider thinks not.

Why not use words like, “It will be an interesting segment”? Or be more direct and say, “It’s a segment we think you’ll want to see”? Unless, of course, you don’t think that.

Then there are the more complicated issues surrounding “thank you.”

As someone who appreciates a “thank you” from the boss, The Insider has no problem with on-air thanks from anchors to correspondents for the story they’ve just filed.

The Insider thinks it’s right and proper for an interviewer to thank a guest at the end of a segment.

At which point, “you’re welcome” is the appropriate response from the guest, without whom that segment presumably could not have been done.

But with increasing frequency, guests respond to a “thank you” with “thank you.”

The subliminal message there is that the guest thinks he or she benefited from the transaction.

Of course, the cold, hard fact is that they all too often have, because exposure on TV is promoting them or their agenda/movie/book/TV show/whatever.

So it is, perhaps, appropriate for, say, a White House representative to say, “thank you” for being allowed to spin the administration’s position to several million viewers/voters/taxpayers at a time.

It also is, perhaps, appropriate for a celebrity to say “thank you” for the opportunity to turn on the charm in support of their latest project—although one can certainly argue that the show benefits from the celebrity’s appearance more directly.

It might be appropriate for a health or safety official who needs to get a message out as widely and efficiently as possible—although isn’t that the first priority of a TV news program?

But The Insider cringes when average people who suddenly find themselves in the headlines, especially because of a natural disaster or other tragedy, say “thank you” at the end of an interview.

It seems to suggest that no matter what they had to go through to get there, they have been rewarded with their 15 minutes of fame. Ditto the heavy-handed makeup and coifs and inappropriate smiles of the wife and the sister of a man who was still missing and unaccounted for days after the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis during a morning-show interview with a morning-show correspondent still on the scene.

But it added an imponderable and squirmy sadness to the whole interview when they said “thank you.”

And you’re welcome to register your thoughts about any or all of the above.

One Comment

  1. Excellent observations on the verbal tics and routines that the morning news shows have fallen into. Nothing new, it’s just more obvious as the shows have become more script/prompter reliant, and talent has moved away from folks who have the natural broadcast skills to fake sincerity. Far too many anchors come off like radio jocks ACTING like the tv morning hosts in a bad SNL sketch or local tv. It doesn’t have to be phony and forced. Blame the producers who create and encourage these faux exchanges.
    Add to your list:
    *announcing a new story with the
    tiresome “switching gears”
    *teasing “that story” that perhaps everyone in
    the office has been talking about, but not the
    viewer…why so vague?
    *the sloppy wrap with guests:
    “Thank you” will do nicely, so why the automatic “‘preciate it”? In closing, a nod to Keith Olbermann for giving us a variation that politely and clearly ends the session:
    “Thank you for your time.”

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