The cable net’s makeover, which keeps a challenging — at times even disorienting — amount of information on the screen at any one time, turns news-watching into a sort of information-retention parlor game. The new look bowed Aug. 6.
A random moment from the net’s first 24 hours of revamp found the screen simultaneously offering sports scores, the national weather (sometimes hard-to-identify chips of the U.S. in blazing red), talking points about the new cloning fracas and a headline about a sailor who fell into a volcano. (“He’s OK,” it noted.)
Among the stated aims of the relaunch was a desire to capture more young viewers by presenting the news in a manner appealing to the presumably Web-besotted youth of Generations X, Y and Z.
So the Headline News TV screen does indeed now resemble an Internet home page. The anchor commands only a quarter of the real estate. Filling the bottom third is a running headline tickertape, the weather graphic and either sports scores or stock market news. The top left quarter is usually devoted to a list of bulleted factoids.
It sounds cluttered, and it is.
Virtually no stories are disseminated without supporting video, usually lots of it. The obvious question raised is whether news value or availability of video bites and relevant factoids is determining coverage.
On the plus side, the makeover is an impressive technical achievement, but a paradox remains: The net is simultaneously aiming to coddle those short attention spans and to stretch them indefinitely in order to keep Nielsen eyes tuned in.