Volumes have been written about the precipitous decline and trivialization of television news in the U.S. Network, cable and local news – once the world’s most effective form of communications aside from the Internet and face-to-face conversation – has been turned into a loud and often gaudy form of vaudeville.
It’s all about making big profits. TV networks have quietly closed most of their international bureaus. News consultants claim Americans don’t care or understand what happens abroad, anyway. Hundreds of professional reporters and editors have been laid off domestically. Cable news coverage in the field has been replaced by live roundtable yelling fests of drivel from pundits and pontificators.
When once CBS, ABC, NBC and others had their own trusted journalists on the scene internationally, reports today mostly come from freelance “stringers,” often unverified sources on YouTube, and news syndication services or … someone taking video with a smartphone.
Despite the grim decay of TV news in America, it’s more hopeful at BBC News, headquartered in London. Case in point …
Terrorists struck the heart of Paris in multiple coordinated attacks the night of Friday, November 13, 2015. Despite the unspeakable carnage and utter chaos across central Paris, a no-nonsense BBC World News presenter brought level-headed clarity to the attacks and horror in Paris with an understated, professional style that was a reflection, I believe, of television’s great news anchors, like Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather.
Her name is Martine Croxall, whose regular shift is to present late-night newscasts for BBC News. But, Friday, November 13, was different.
As BBC’s massive global series of networks – largest in the world – were harnessed together, Ms. Croxall calmly yet credibly informed us from BBC studios in London of the fast-developing events in Paris. She was live to a global television audience of millions … nonstop, for two and a half hours. Her demeanor was extraordinary, free of the drama, showbiz hype and tawdry behavior we endure from many television newscasters in America.
She listened intently to remote reports from BBC News correspondents on the scene in Paris, and on occasion, politely corrected something said that could be misunderstood as speculation or not substantiated.
It’s been decades since I’ve witnessed such a high level of journalistic professionalism. Downright exciting. And, I have every hope and belief that Martine Croxall’s star will shine even more brightly at BBC News.
And, here’s a most interesting caveat — not once did Ms. Croxall tell us her name, not once did BBC World News super her name during the hours she was on camera. She and they made it about communicating a world event.