News Splits Along Cultural Lines

Is it just me, or have you noticed a break between two sorts of news geared for two different audiences?

When we lived in a more culture heavy time, we had high culture and low culture--you know, the former was "kultur," and the latter was for the great rabbles who drove the Model T.

Today, we have moved from a "Culture age" to the Information Age, instead of high and low culture, we have High TV News and Low TV News. NO joke. I work in a TV newsroom, and I see it happening.

The station where I work puts on 24-hour news, every day of the week. We do national, international and regional news, nut mostly our focus is local. We give you weather, sports, 30 seconds on the Liberal Democratic Party losing its majority in Japan, and six minutes on some court case in Brockton. So despite the range of the stations' focus we're essentially a local operation.

Do you know what goes on the local new? Last week we had:

Boy, 12, shoots father in head with hunting rifle;

Man arraigned for raping boy scouts, a repeat offense;

Boy shot--accident or crossfire?

Eleven year-old girl molested by boys;

Fatal car wreck;

Sex offenders in prison and out--still a threat?

Family dies in fire.

I doubt this rundown raised an eyebrow. the tawdriness of the local news only becomes an interesting issue when one considers who watches this news. It is not the public who watches MacNeil/Lehrer or the Nightly Business Report, or even 60 Minutes. They cater specifically to the more affluent and the more educated--not always the same people, but one viewership.

These shows have no violence. They never do re-enactments. The very style of camera work is more stable, more staid. Why does this style appeal to the educated viewer?

I think we have to look back in American history to understand the difference in appeal and in style between high and low TV, right back to that emblem of American civilization itself; Coney Island.