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Infotainment

Infotainment

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Infotainment is "information-based media content or programming that also includes entertainment content in an effort to enhance popularity with audiences and consumers." It is a neologistic portmanteau of information and entertainment, referring to a type of media
Electronic media
Electronic media are media that use electronics or electromechanical energy for the end-user to access the content. This is in contrast to static media , which today are most often created electronically, but don't require electronics to be accessed by the end-user in the printed form...

 which provides a combination of information and entertainment. According to many dictionaries infotainment is always television, and the term is "mainly disapproving." However, many self-described infotainment websites exist, which provide a variety of functions and services.

Criticism


The label "infotainment" is emblematic of concern and criticism that journalism is devolving from a medium which conveys serious information about issues affecting public interest, into a form of entertainment which happens to have fresh "facts" in the mix. The criteria by which reporters and editors judge news value - whether something is worth putting on the front page, the bottom of the hour, or is worth commenting on at all - are integral parts of this debate. Some blame the media for this perceived phenomenon, for failing to live up to ideals of civic journalistic responsibility, while others blame the commercial nature of many media organizations, the need for higher ratings, combined with a preference among the public for feel-good content and "unimportant" topics like celebrity gossip or sports. In a critique of infotainment, Bonnie Anderson of News Flash cited a CNN lead story on February 2, 2004 following the exposure of Janet Jackson's
Janet Jackson
Janet Damita Jo Jackson is an American recording artist and actress. Known for a series of sonically innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate stage shows, television and film roles, she has been a prominent figure in popular culture for over 25 years...

 breast
Breast
The breast is the upper ventral region of the torso of a primate, in left and right sides, which in a female contains the mammary gland that secretes milk used to feed infants.Both men and women develop breasts from the same embryological tissues...

 on national television. The follow-up story was about a ricin chemical attack on the U.S. Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 majority leader
Majority leader
In U.S. politics, the majority floor leader is a partisan position in a legislative body.In the federal Congress, the role differs slightly in the two houses. In the House of Representatives, which chooses its own presiding officer, the leader of the majority party is elected the Speaker of the...

.

A specialization process has also occurred, beginning with the rise of mass market special-interest magazines, moving into broadcast with the advent of cable television, and continuing into new media, like the Internet and satellite radio. An increasing number of media outlets are available to the public which exclusively focus on a single topic such as current events, home improvement, history, movies, women and Christianity. Consumers have a broad choice whether they receive a general feed of the most "important" information of the day or a highly customized presentation of a single type of content. Highly customized content streams may not be considered newsworthy nor contain a neutral point of view. Some publications and channels have found a sizable audience in the "niche" of featuring hard news.

Controversy has continued over the size of the audience and whether outlets are diluting content with too much "soft" news. The distinction between journalists and anchors versus reporters are "human interest", personality, or celebrity news story pieces. Soft news reporters and stories are typically directed by marketing share departments based on a demographic appeal and audience share. It is commonly accepted news anchors are also media personalities which may also be considered celebrities. Media outlets commonly use on-air personalities for their public appeal to promote the network's investments similar to the regular broadcast schedule including self-promotion and advertising. Critics might go so far as to view anchors as a weak link, representing the misplacement of both the credit and the accountability of a news journalism organization—hence adding to a perceived erosion of journalistic standards throughout the news business. (See yellow journalism
Yellow journalism
Yellow journalism or the yellow press is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism...

.)

Most infotainment television programs on networks
Television network
A television network is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay TV providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small...

 and broadcast cable only contain general information on the subjects they cover and should not be considered as formal learning or instruction. An example of a broadcast may include accusation
Accusation
*Accusation can mean:*The Accusation, a 1951 Italian film*Criminal accusation*False accusations*For other meanings, see wikt:accusation...

s of a celebrity or other individual committing a crime with no verifiable factual support or evidence of such claims.

Infotainment versus journalism


Some define "journalism" only as reporting on "serious" subjects, where common journalistic standards are upheld by the reporter. Others believe that the larger "news business" encompasses everything from professional journalism to so-called "soft news" and "infotainment", and support activities such as marketing, advertising sales, finance and delivery. Professional journalism is supposed to place more emphasis on research
Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

, fact-checking, and the public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

 than its "non-journalistic" counterparts. Because the term "news
News
News is the communication of selected information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience.- Etymology :...

" is quite broad, the terms "hard" and "soft" denote both a difference in respective standards for news value, as well as for standards of conduct, relative to the professional ideals of journalistic integrity.

The idea of hard news embodies two orthogonal concepts:
  • Seriousness: Politics, economics, crime, war, and disasters are considered serious topics, as are certain aspects of law, business, science, and technology.
  • Timeliness: Stories that cover current events—the progress of a war, the results of a vote, the breaking out of a fire, a significant statement, the freeing of a prisoner, an economic report of note.

The logical opposite, soft news is sometimes referred to in a derogatory fashion as infotainment.
Defining features catching the most criticism include:
  • The least serious subjects: Arts and entertainment, sports, lifestyles, "human interest", and celebrities.
  • Not timely: There is no precipitating event triggering the story, other than a reporter's curiosity.


Timely events happen in less serious subjects—sporting matches, celebrity
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

 misadventures, movie releases, art exhibits, and so on.

There may also be serious reports which are not event-driven—coverage of important social, economic, legal, or technological trends; investigative reports which uncover ongoing corruption, waste, or immorality; or discussion of unsettled political issues without any special reason. Anniversaries, holidays, the end of a year or season, or the end of the first 100 days of an administration, can make some stories time-sensitive, but provide more of an opportunity for reflection and analysis than any actual "news" to report.

The spectrum of "seriousness" and "importance" is not well-defined, and different media organizations make different tradeoffs. "News you can use", a common marketing phrase highlighting a specific genre of journalism, spans the gray area. Gardening tips and hobby "news" pretty clearly fall at the entertainment end. Warnings about imminent natural disasters or acute domestic security threats (such as air raids or terrorist attacks) are considered so important that broadcast media (even non-news channels) usually interrupt other programming to announce them. A medical story about a new treatment for breast cancer, or a report about local ground water pollution might fall in between. So might book reviews, or coverage of religion. On the other hand, people frequently find hobbies and entertainment to be worthwhile parts of their lives and so "importance" on a personal level is rather subjective.

Entertainment and news crossovers


Infotainers are entertainers in infotainment media, such as news anchors
News presenter
A news presenter is a person who presents news during a news program in the format of a television show, on the radio or the Internet.News presenters can work in a radio studio, television studio and from remote broadcasts in the field especially weather...

 or "news personalities" who cross the line between journalism (quasi-journalism) and entertainment. Notable examples in the U.S. media are Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters
Barbara Jill Walters is an American broadcast journalist, author, and television personality. She has hosted morning television shows , the television newsmagazine , former co-anchor of the ABC Evening News, and current contributor to ABC News.Walters was first known as a popular TV morning news...

, Katie Couric
Katie Couric
Katherine Anne "Katie" Couric is an American journalist and author. She serves as Special Correspondent for ABC News, contributing to ABC World News, Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America, This Week and primetime news specials...

, Keith Olbermann
Keith Olbermann
Keith Theodore Olbermann is an American political commentator and writer. He has been the chief news officer of the Current TV network and the host of Current TV's weeknight political commentary program, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, since June 20, 2011...

, Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck
Glenn Edward Lee Beck is an American conservative radio host, vlogger, author, entrepreneur, political commentator and former television host. He hosts the Glenn Beck Program, a nationally syndicated talk-radio show that airs throughout the United States on Premiere Radio Networks...

, Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper
Anderson Hays Cooper is an American journalist, author, and television personality. He is the primary anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°. The program is normally broadcast live from a New York City studio; however, Cooper often broadcasts live on location for breaking news stories...

, Maury Povich
Maury Povich
Maurice Richard "Maury" Povich is an American TV talk show host who currently hosts his self-titled talk show Maury.-Personal background:...

, Deborah Norville
Deborah Norville
Deborah Norville is an American television broadcaster and journalist. Since 1995 she has been host of the syndicated American television program Inside Edition...

, and Geraldo Rivera
Geraldo Rivera
Geraldo Rivera is an American attorney, journalist, author, reporter, and former talk show host...

 among others.

Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters
Barbara Jill Walters is an American broadcast journalist, author, and television personality. She has hosted morning television shows , the television newsmagazine , former co-anchor of the ABC Evening News, and current contributor to ABC News.Walters was first known as a popular TV morning news...

, though not the first to cross the line between news and personality stories, is for many the quintessential news-media icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

. Her career dates back to the 50s, and her current prominence at ABC is largely due to celebrity interviews, with a long running co-anchorship on 20/20 with Hugh Downs
Hugh Downs
Hugh Malcolm Downs is a long time American broadcaster, television host, news anchor, TV producer, author, game show host, and music composer; and is perhaps best known for his role as co-host the NBC News program Today from 1962 to 1971, host of the Concentration game show from 1958 to 1969, and...

 and, later, John Stossel
John Stossel
John F. Stossel is an American consumer reporter, investigative journalist, author and libertarian columnist. In October 2009 Stossel left his long time home on ABC News to join the Fox Business Channel and Fox News Channel, both owned and operated by News Corp...

 until 2004, and her overlapping morning infotainment show The View.

When Geraldo Rivera
Geraldo Rivera
Geraldo Rivera is an American attorney, journalist, author, reporter, and former talk show host...

 became the host of his own news-oriented talk show on CNBC
CNBC
CNBC is a satellite and cable television business news channel in the U.S., owned and operated by NBCUniversal. The network and its international spinoffs cover business headlines and provide live coverage of financial markets. The combined reach of CNBC and its siblings is 390 million viewers...

, others within the NBC organization voiced their protest, including Tom Brokaw
Tom Brokaw
Thomas John "Tom" Brokaw is an American television journalist and author best known as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004. He is the author of The Greatest Generation and other books and the recipient of numerous awards and honors...

 who was reported to have threatened to quit. Rivera had a notorious history as a "sleaze reporter" and daytime talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

 host, where he and one or two others were representative of "Tabloid talk show
Tabloid talk show
Tabloid talk shows are a genre of American television programming talk shows that achieved peak viewership during the late 20th century. Airing mostly during the day and distributed mostly through broadcast syndication, this genre originated with The Phil Donahue Show and was popularized by the...

s"; television seen to have little social value or redeeming intelligence, but still popular with viewers.

Apocrypha


The terms "infotainment" and "infotainer" were first used in September 1980 at the Joint Conference of Aslib, the Institute of Information Scientists and the Library Association in Sheffield, UK. The Infotainers were a group of British information scientists who put on comedy shows at their professional conferences between 1980 and 1990.

An earlier, and slightly variant term, "infortainment" was coined in 1974 as the title of the 1974 convention of the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS), the association of college radio stations in the United States. It took place on April 5–7, 1974, at the Statler Hilton Hotel, now the Hotel Pennsylvania. It was defined as the "nexus between Information and Entertainment".

See also

  • Infomercial
    Infomercial
    Infomercials are direct response television commercials which generally include a phone number or website. There are long-form infomercials, which are typically between 15 and 30 minutes in length, and short-form infomercials, which are typically 30 seconds to 120 seconds in length. Infomercials...

  • Subliminal message
  • Product placement
    Product placement
    Product placement, or embedded marketing, is a form of advertisement, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, music videos, the story line of television shows, or news programs. The product placement is often not disclosed at the time that the...


  • In car entertainment
    In car entertainment
    In-Car Entertainment, , is a collection of hardware devices installed into automobiles, or other forms of transportation, to provide audio and/or audio/visual entertainment, as well as automotive navigation systems...

  • Junk food news
    Junk food news
    Junk food news is a sardonic term for news stories that deliver "sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia",especially when such stories appear at the expense of serious investigative journalism...


External links