In a move widely predicted, Bill Ralston has resigned as head of news at TVNZ. He’s had a successful and colourful career in New Zealand journalism but his time at the state-owned broadcaster was not something to feature on the CV.
Mr Ralston’s departure has been attributed to the sharp decline in viewership during his tenure, with many commentators pointing to the axing of news anchor Judy Bailey and other popular presenters.
The loss of brand-name personalities is probably a factor in the ratings slump, but I think TVNZ should also be taking a hard look at the quality and style of its journalism.
Number one on the list: Slash the “how do you feel about that?” style of reporting in favour of covering the essential facts in each report. Every evening on One News there are reports that contain heaps of emoting while omitting the information necessary for an understanding of the story. Usually it’s the “but why?” question that goes unanswered.
Number two: Edit the reporters’ scripts before they are voiced. A couple of evenings ago, for example, One News featured a report on the rare Maui’s dolphin, telling us they were only found in a small area on the east coast of the North Island, while the map that accompanied the voiceover clearly showed the area was on the west coast. It’s about credibility, and TVNZ desperately needs more.
And on the subject of scripts, use them more. Far too many inexperienced reporters are appearing live on camera and making a mess of the effort. One gets the feeling TVNZ producers frequently choose to go “live” because they can, not because it’s in the best interest of the viewer.