In the TV news business, it’s called a “tease.” It’s an enticement to keep watching – and a promise that it will be well worth the wait. Example: “There’s a killer creeping around Northwest neighborhoods at this hour. Could it be YOUR neighborhood? We’ll tell you tonight at 11.”
A killer? Tell me which neighborhood – NOW! But, no – you’ll have to watch the newscast. But then, when the actual newscast comes on, the teasing continues: “Coming up, details about that killer. Meanwhile, could there be a change coming in our weather? Jeff will come by to tell us.”
Or, “The Mariners made a big trade today. You won’t believe it. Especially after we tell you about it – coming up later.” That’s about the time I throw the TV remote right through the screen.
We wouldn’t tolerate any other business doing this stuff: “Welcome to Les Schwab! When will we wait on you? The answer is coming up.”
Or, “Good evening. Thanks for coming to the emergency hospital. We’ll attend to your heart attack shortly. Stick around. We’ll be back in two minutes.”
The TV news tease thing was in full swing during last week’s snowstorm deluge. Beyond the advice: “Plan ahead!” (Is there any other kind of planning beside ‘ahead’?), there were the relentless teases: “How much more snow is coming? We’ll tell you when we return.”
“What’s the best snow shovel to use? The answer may surprise you. Coming up.”
“Who does my hair? I’ll tell you after this break.”
The American Heritage dictionary defines “tease” and “teasing” as: 1. To annoy, pester, vex. 2. To make fun of; playfully mock. 3. To arouse hope, desire or curiosity without affording satisfaction.
Which definition do you think TV news has in mind?
Of all of our household appliances, why do we tolerate TV behaving in such a fashion? Who’d put up with a toaster that wouldn’t pop up the finished product until 11 p.m.?
Or a bathroom weight scale that displayed: “How much do you weigh, you may be wondering? It’s a lot more than you may think. The answer coming up later.”
Imagine if everyday people used the news tease approach:
Husband: Hey, Hon! What’s for dinner?”
Wife: “The answer may surprise you. Also, coming up, you won’t belief Bobby’s report card. Was it good? Or bad? The full details right around the corner. Stay with me.”
Husband: “I went to the dentist today. Did I get a filling– or a root canal? The surprising outcome coming up.”
Wife: “I picked up a home pregnancy test at Bartell’s today. Did it come out positive or negative? I’ll show you later.”
Husband: “And, coming up – did I get fired today? And, if I did, how are we going to get by? A special report straight ahead.”
Wife: “Whose mother called this afternoon to say she’s coming for a visit? Could it be yours – or mine? And is she planning to stay for the weekend – or a full month? You won’t believe the surprising answer!”
So enough with the teasing on TV newscasts. We promise not to shoot the messenger – as long as the messenger just gives us the $#!%&! message.
Meanwhile, will this obscure column result in a change in the way local TV news goes about its business? And will pigs fly? You won’t believe the answer in my next column!
Pat Cashman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.