Television news: please just give us the facts!

Published 11:54 am Friday, June 9, 2017

by Bob Holt

I have been watching the evening news since I was eight years old.


When you grew up in Western Tidewater in the 1950s with no internet, no smartphone and no video games, what else was there to do? It was too hot and muggy outside, and most homes did not have air-conditioning so we had more sedentary activities.

In those days there were only two channel choices, CBS and NBC, now WTKR and WAVY, respectively. Television programming came on at 2:30 in the afternoon and went off at 11:30 PM. 

The evening newscast was then only 15 minutes from 6:45-7:00 p.m. I watched the NBC version with John Cameron Swayze.

He sat behind a desk and read the news stories with occasional video, mostly of activities going on in Washington, D.C., during Harry Truman’s administration and later that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The only news programs with panel discussions or multiple guests were NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Both were only an hour on Sundays.

Throughout the next 30 years or so I watched Douglas Edwards, Chet Huntley/David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings. In 1980, Ted Turner founded the Cable News Network (CNN) as the first of the 24-hour cable news channels. While several in the media predicted failure, it set the stage for many other 24-hour cable news channels that followed.

Today television news has become a source of entertainment rather than the place to go to get the facts.  Broadcasts are in fancy studios with bright colors and constantly moving backgrounds. Newscasters appear to be in places they are not.

The most disturbing aspect of television news now is that most every reporting segment starts with a few skewed facts followed by three to five “experts” who then proceed to tell us what we should think. 

They tend to present the worst possible scenario of the situation and support their thoughts with soundbites that are usually taken out of context to make their point. This argumentative format is wearing thin on the American public, and many have chosen to minimize their news watching.

There seems to be a huge market for a television newscast, network or cable, that gives viewers honest and unfiltered facts by news reporters who simply report the actual situation in a straight-forward manner.

Let us then decide how we feel. We can only hope.

ROBERT N. “BOB” HOLT, a Franklin native, is a professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets from 1963 to 1967. His e-mail address is