30/11/2004 - 21:00

Mark Pownall: Slow news blues

30/11/2004 - 21:00


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I AM thinking of starting a special Monday watch column to analyse the news we have suffered with at the start of the week.

Mark Pownall: Slow news blues

I AM thinking of starting a special Monday watch column to analyse the news we have suffered with at the start of the week.

For those who don’t follow the media, Monday morning (and Sunday night in the broadcast world) are particularly difficult times to satisfy the audience’s hunger for news.

In the trade Sunday is known as a “slow news day” which is understandable given the weekend is a time of rest and most of us take it easy.

However slow it is, the Sunday news bulletin still has a half hour to fill and the Monday morning paper – albeit a lot thinner – still has 60 pages or so of vast white space that requires words and pictures.

A similar problem exists for Saturday night news and Sunday morning papers.

Some media outlets put some effort into filling this gap, using it as an opportunity to do something different.

But most publishers and broadcasters succumb to the charm of the public relations machines that provide a ready supply of appetising copy and pictures for this awkward time of the week.

Not only does it fill a gap, the “news” is so well manufactured that junior staffers can often be employed to “cover” the issue, keeping costs down.

From my experience, I think the medical world, including pharma-ceutical companies, has been the best at exploiting this opportunity.

On the weekend night news you regularly hear of ground breaking medical treatments for all manner of ailments.

This offers real relief for newspapers and TV stations that not only need some “news” on the weekend but also have tonnes of research telling them that their audience wants to hear about health.

I always wonder if the audience research says people only want health news at the weekend?

Politicians of course are also seasoned exploiters of this media weakness.

Hence we have ground breaking ceremonies coupled with various political announcements that daily media scurry to cover. If it was any other time of the week they would probably have to pay for an advertisement.

Another group I have noticed taking increasing advantage of this are in the public service, notably those who require political mileage.

Drug busts (or any contraband) are my favourite. Big ones almost always seem to happen on the weekend, as the smugglers (who must have real jobs during the week) conveniently blunder into nets set by the various authorities who are competing for government funding at any one point in time.

I reckon a communications student should do a thesis on this.

Except for the drug bust, this week was no exception. In fact, we got to see a rare double act with the flare up of the smoking debate, led by – you guessed it – the Gallop Government, smartly followed up by a response from the Australian Medical Association.

The State Government wants to outlaw public smoking near buildings and bring in a total ban on smoking in pubs by July 2006.

The AMA reckons the bans can’t come quick enough. It’s all good stuff but, while I agree with the stance and I’d love to see smoking banned in pubs, there was not much news in any of this.

There was every expectation that smoking was going to have been banned in pubs by the beginning of 2006, so the Australian Hotels Association appears to have won a small reprieve – an angle that has opened the opportunity to raise the issue of political donations.

Fantastic stuff on a slow news day.

Media watchers may well have got my point by now and realised that the other “big” news from the weekend was a hotel at Barrack Square.

I feel like I’ve heard it all before when these items make it on the news – don’t you?


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