American Media – It’s All About the Show!

A lot of things happened during my internship in the United States: two major hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) hit the American coastlines, a man shot dozens of people during a concert in Las Vegas and influential actors and producers were accused of sexual harassment. All these events became global news. Of course, they were huge topics in the American media, too. As I realized some differences between German journalism and the way of presenting news in the United States, this blog entry shall deal with media in the United States.

Broadcasting the news in the U.S. is a little different than the way news is presented in Germany. The most striking difference I realized is the more dramatic way of presenting the news here in the United States. To show the effects of hurricane Irma, many American TV stations sent reporters right into one of the most dangerous areas in Florida. Due to the heavy rain and winds, it was hard to understand what the reporter said. Nevertheless, he explained how dangerous and serious it was to be outside while he himself was broadcasting from the middle of the street. Even though the footage was very dramatic, he had put himself into a highly dangerous situation.

Compared to German news, there are more live connections to reporters on-site. Additionally, American news stations often portray eyewitness accounts. After the Las Vegas shooting, the TV station did not only interview an on-site reporter, but also several eyewitnesses. Even when the witnesses were crying, the footage was still broadcasted. Of course, this created a very strong atmosphere. However, I had some struggles with this overly dramatic kind of broadcasting. Sometimes I had the feeling that the story the news wanted to tell was based at the expense of lacking privacy of the eyewitnesses. I did not need to see the eyewitnesses’ tears to understand how shocking and horrible the shooting was. Nonetheless, the news did not cut the footage even when the witnesses were bursting into tears. They even accompanied the eyewitness report with dramatic music to strengthen the images. After a soldier fell in action, ABC News interviewed the widow. They broadcasted the whole interview even though she had to fight her tears a couple of times.

It appears to me that American media are more dramatic than German media. While German news is typically presented by only one anchor, many American TV stations have three or four anchors. They do not just present the news, but also discuss and talk about it. Therefore, the news tends to appear more subjective sometimes. The dramatic way of presenting news and the sometimes even chatting anchors have led me to this sight. Additionally, many news is complemented with chyrons. These captions are often rather sensational, heroic and dramatic.

Besides the more dramatic way of presenting the news, American media differ from German media in some other ways. The United States are very big. There is a time difference of three hours from coast to coast. Thus, it is almost impossible to send the news from only one station per channel. Therefore, there are many small regional divisions of the bigger channels. For example, the TV stations my host family regularly watches are cbs 58 Milwaukee and ABC Wisconsin. They broadcast news from the whole Milwaukee area and the state of Wisconsin, the weather and even the current traffic on the highways. There are many shows and movies which are broadcasted on all different regional programs of the different TV stations. However, the news is rather regional.

As the TV station is only for the Milwaukee area, respectively Wisconsin, the commercials are for smaller, regional companies, too. Many restaurants, breweries or law offices advertise through the local TV station. These commercials can take some time. American TV includes much more commercials than German TV. To illustrate this, I have picked out the example of the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. The German TV station VOX schedules 2:35 hours for the movie and the commercials. ABC, however, schedules three hours for the movie. The commercial breaks are not necessarily longer, but more often.

Television is a big business in the United States. It tells stories and news very dramatically. It is about fates of individuals. It is about big headlines. It is about the big money. Sometimes, it is a little too much for me.

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