Chapter 6 (cont.)
Lacunae in the news:
Example 1: Making logic of television pauses
Public service announcements are customary on European television. In all of our interviews, there was no mention (without specific prompting) by those taking part in our investigation of CNN's pause to show text on the screen ("Events Around the World"). Our Finnish audience found nothing unusual about a detached minute of benign music and screen text. Finnish viewers seem to ignore these announcements because of their familiarity: These announcements remind one of Finnish television, while other breaks in the "rhythm and flow" of CNN International's programming are also patiently tolerated, even if they last for several minutes.
Here we have an example of a syllogistic lacuna, a class of cultural lacunae, which can be recognized as a part of the cultural community's specific way of thinking and ascribing order to certain circumstances, a consequence of the individual psychology of a particular culture.
In contrast, American audiences would find it uncomfortable or odd if a fast-paced commercial news network like CNN abruptly offered a long pause with no action on the screen. If pauses do occur, as is traditonal in the rhythm and flow used on American commercial television, it is a sign of a breakdown-and, worst of all, an opportunity to change channels. Our group of Finns failed to grasp the significance of a lengthy pause on commercial television and experienced nothing exceptional. Finns, accustomed to having only two or three channels, do not so readily start changing channels during a break. Americans, however, assume that, logically, through experience, there should be no uncomfortable pauses in any television broadcast.
This particular message was likely used as downtime filler for a lack of advertising on CNN International. CNN USA, however, was ready for the break with commercials targeted at the American market.
Pauses affect the pace of an American commercial television program which are constructed in such a manner that the audience is "pulled" from one commercial to the next by formulas consisting of a combination of dialogue, music, content and paralanguage. The final structure of the program is designed to blend in with the upcoming commercial.
This technique is made lucid when commercial television in Finland runs a sit-com produced in the United States. The local Finnish advertising can rarely fill in the commercial slots according to the formula outlined above, causing Finnish audiences to wonder why American programs break when they do. A comedy sequence, for example, will climax with the "punchline," "canned" laughter, appropriate action and music (signaling that the action has come to a momentary pause) then fade out only to fade in again, immediately, with a new scene. To heal this particular lacuna, CNN will have to find more paid advertising.
Another illustration of Edward T. Hall's concept of transition of the implicit, CNN runs idyllic scenes from various countries as a backdrop for hotel advertising, again a consequence of a lack of paid advertising. The hotels listed are naturally those which subscribe to CNN on cable. The Finnish third channel, which is commercial, has now chosen to run similar idyllic scenes to punctuate its programming. In the Finnish case, one might surmise, their purpose is to fill in for a lack of paid advertising, or to give audiences the "feel" and "look" of CNN?
Example 2: Television news anchors and non-verbal behavior
Most participants in this study agreed that the friendly face and welcoming smile of the anchor, Gordon Graham, combined with the flashy display of technology in the background, served as an enticing invitation to settle back and "enjoy" the news-perhaps a little too enticing, some felt. The rapid pace and "aggressive" music, as it was described by some, attracted immediate notice, causing the feeling that it would be difficult to pay attention to every detail. This style of reporting made some participants "nervous," but most commented favorably on the speed of the action.
There are of course cross-cultural differences in nonverbal behavior, kinesics and paralanguage, and these lacunae fall within the category of communicative activity and behavioral lacunae. Non-verbal behavior, in particular the kinesics of a gesture, or in this case, a smile, can be interpreted by Finns in the same was as any overly-friendly look would be interpreted by any American.
Smiling, to American audiences, signals a polite and congenial welcome, used in the news to generate emotions in audiences of sympathy and congeniality. (The illusion of being on personal terms-"one on one"-with the anchor, "Gordon," is irresistible, and even though he is not a personal friend of mine, he does however visit my living room on a regular basis and he is familiar to my family as well.) Finnish news is not supposed to be like a visit from a friend. YLE is the official voice of the Finnish broadcasting company-news, according to the Finns in this study, is like a formal public announcement. YLE does not traditionally use a smile to signal that a news program is about to begin. Instead, a smile denotes humor, that something funny is about to happen. If a news broadcast is funny in Finland, it risks losing its credibility.
One popular Finnish television personality (Frank Pappa) has made a successful comedy career out of reading the day's news with totally unfitting facial expressions and gestures. The routine is meant as comedy, and Pappa is considered to be quite a clown, but the results are telling indeed because he reads real news, including the day's disasters, deaths, and battles. They are all read with a gleeful smile and interspersed with laughter, punctuated by frowning-as if his own emotions were totally disconnected from the text. The satire, of course, is aimed at American news broadcasts. American audiences, of course, expect "happy talk" and banter during a news broadcast. Finns, on the other hand, associate such behavior with clowns, or see only disconnected, non-genuine emotions being expressed.
One does hear in Finland that expressing emotions openly is a desirable trait to have and to practice-other nationalities do it, and Finns should, if they want to be truly "international." The commercial channel in Finland has become aware of these reputed "deficiencies" in the Finnish personality and now provides its audiences with a "sufficient" amount of humor just before (a smile with limited banter) and just after news (a short, humorous story-the "kicker") for added polish.
Of much interest to our informants in this study, and one unique arrangement which sets the stage as "a real place where news is happening," is the "open newsroom." This "theater-in-the-round" has been used for some time in the United States, and is mimicked in Finland by the commercial stations as well as commercial stations in other countries in Europe, but it was first popularized by CNN at the beginning of the 1980s. The Finnish commercial channel even shows monitors with CNN on their screens-an obvious attempt to borrow from CNN's prestige as a world news gatherer.
Example 3: Reporting disasters on television
A hurricane is an unfortunate disaster. Finns quite naturally feel remorse for those who suffer. Hawaii, however, is half a world away from Finland. Other disasters, even those in Europe which are often more disastrous in terms of loss of life, still do not get as much attention from YLE as Iniki got from CNN. A majority of those participating in our audience expressed surprise at seeing the extreme detail (considered very professional) but emotional reporting-combined with the exciting footage of destruction-of Iniki.
The Lacunae encountered are several in number. One might say that they express the national American temperament for intense emotions and excitement when it comes to an interest in disasters and their effect on people's lives. As a lacuna of perception, one would concede that Hawaii is closer to the United States and its own interests, both economic and geographical, than to Finland. In this case, however, the emphasis should go on the actual construction of the report which was written for broadcast by using the traditional American format.
This format illustrates the classic American commercial style of discourse used in writing news for television, as outlined by Newsom and Wollert, namely:
1. Keep it conversational.
2. Keep it simple.
3. Keep it short.
4. Use full sentences. (Write in headline style ONLY in the headline segments of the newscasts.)
"Iniki" is also an example of "hard news," not a feature or human interest story. Hard news, according to Newsom and Wollert, includes: "Reports of current events that are of importance because of timeliness, proximity and impact."
Graham begins with a lead. Designed to build anticipation and alert the audience of more action to come, leads are very effective at dragging the viewer into the next sentence, and, hopefully, on beyond to the next commercial with attention-getting verbs, in this case, "slammed," "destroying," "putting their lives back together, etc." The lead does not contain all the facts of who, what, where, when, why and how... The audience is expected to wait in anticipation of those details during the voice-over. Commercial television leads differ from newspaper leads which attempt to include all the significant facts of the story and form "an indigestible lump" that requires "rechewing" before it can be understood. Television leads are meant to introduce "a dash of seasoning" to "a concentrated broth that can be easily swallowed."
Generally, there is no past tense in a television lead. According to Newsom and Wollert, many broadcast news writers never use the past tense in a lead because only the present has the ability to express a sense of "immediacy" and "urgency," needed for holding audiences. Past tense is for "old news and newspapers," who attract their audiences in different ways. The immediacy of television, the need to give impact and proximity to that immediacy and have the audience wait for the next (presumably more exciting story of who, what, where, when, why and how), makes the lead distinct.
The remainder of the "Iniki" story answers basic questions of who? what? when? where? why? and how? Graham's role in "Iniki" as anchor is played as a voiceover, which is simply "an announcer reading copy 'over' a videotape." A stratagem developed by sportscasters during televised ball games to accentuate the action on the screen, voiceovers are very effective at adding to the audience's feelings of "being there" with the action. Voiceovers are recurrently used in CNN and other commercial television news broadcasts. It is the more modern technique used to get around the problem of the small size of the television screen which makes it necessary to avoid "talking heads," and thus, invite audiences to change channels.
Example 4: Avoiding regional (accent) stereotypes in broadcast news
YLE anchors, I was told (who also have TelePrompTers), seem to be reading their reports from a stack of papers on the desk in front of them, and thus adding to their credibility. Some mentioned, concerning the language used by YLE, that at times the anchors will use words which are not generally understood (such as "devalvaatio"-meaning "devaluation") words which are derived from foreign sources.
The language used on CNN is not designed to sound like written English. As Newsom and Wollert explain:
The conversational style of broadcast writing demands that you think of the way people speak... Broadcast news is written for the ear... Make it personal.
However, on national television, if the anchors become too personal, character lacunae may appear. To avoid character lacunae and calling attention to stereotypes which may tend to have a negative effect on audiences and consequently induce them to change channels, CNN (and network television in general) uses a variety of American English known as "network standard." Although CNN originates its broadcasts from Atlanta, which is in the south-eastern part of the United States, American news anchors traditionally use standard American English pronunciation while on the air. Network Standard and Standard American's phonetic structure and intonation patterns originate from the linguistic region of the country known as the North Midlands, which includes Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey and New York state, and the mid-Atlantic region in general; not, however, the Southeast. This "standard" accent, which became the standard partly as a result of its roots in multi-cultural Pennsylvania, had less resemblance to the more English-sounding varieties in the colonies, spoken to the north and to the south at the time of the Revolutionary War. There was, and still is today, considerable economic and political influence in the Northeast and, perhaps for these reasons, that region's accent is considered the least "abrasive." Even local announcers in the deep south will use it as do the four big national television networks; hence the name, "network standard." CNN would be inviting derision if an anchor were to speak on the air with a regional or ethnic accent, especially southern varieties, even though practically all Americans could understand it, more important it would be putting CNN's image of objectivity in jeopardy. Exceptions, however, do exist. For instance, CNN and CNN International do to a certain extent promote the appearance of anchors from diverse ethnic and national backgrounds, most of whom speak the standard variety. Non-standard Black English would only be appropriate, if spoken by a very prominent person (such as Jesse Jackson).
Our audience was totally oblivious to the way in which character lacunae were avoided by CNN. They, as non-natives, attach little or no significance to non-standard varieties of American English pronunciation. As in the United States, Finland has a standard language which is used on television. This standard language, however, is derived from the written language, known in Finnish as kirjakieli. Although kirjakieli differs from some Finnish dialects, it is used as the "standard" variety in most public discourse, including television news. The languages of newspapers, therefore, and television news, are practically identical. Compared with American English, kirjakieli would be regarded as a more formal register, which is first and foremost a written language and only spoken by radio and television announcers or a few intellectuals, especially when engaged in public discourse. Another variety of Finnish, sometimes known as yleiskieli, is used by Finns when conversing with people from other dialect areas. Yleiskieli is not as common on the YLE news, but can be heard on the Finnish commercial channel's news.
Example 5: On-camera behavior
Participants agreed that the lack of on-camera interviewing by field reporters added to the feeling of "being there," with the action, so to speak. The shots were very short with considerable action taking place within each shot. YLE, I was told, "always has someone standing by asking questions on camera" which slows down the feeling of action, movement and pace, and distracts audiences from the sensation of being "on the spot."
Some remarked that the shots seem to change too quickly and that the movement is so continuous from one interviewee to the next that the television viewer can only "passively stare" at the screen. CNN's pace "seemed so fast that it made contemplation impossible" and in some cases the details of certain news stories were lost.
YLE, most agreed, gives audiences more time to "think about the events." "Finns expect something very formal-not a show"-when it comes to a news report.
The assumption that television news anchors should read the news from a prepared text, lying before them on the desk, as is done at YLE, was a topic which came up spontaneously in several interviews. Many commented that CNN's style is very natural and many believed that CNN's anchors were "ad-libbing" the news, straight into the camera, and not actually reading their lines from a prepared text.
The "survivors" "were presented as heroes" of the storm. CNN placed little emphasis on the anchors and field reporters (who seemed to be almost mysteriously absent). Compared with YLE, the informants felt, CNN projects a "person-oriented" image, as opposed to the "indifferently objective," "official" and "institutionally-oriented" image on YLE.
The anchors on CNN gave the impression that they were actually "talking directly to the audience," although some doubted the sincerity of the "friendly looks" and stated that the anchors seemed almost "mechanical," but "very convincing," even "knowledgeable," and "persuasive"-almost "too perfect," in fact, "good actors" who only "sound knowledgeable."
Some even remarked that the CNN anchors and reporters seemed to be "putting more into their work" than Finnish anchors and reporters. By this it was meant that CNN's anchors seemed to be "acting" and "pretending" to be interested and enthusiastic. To counter this negative interpretation, there was the suggestion by one observer that Finnish reporters "have it too easy"-that "working for a state-supported system gives them a chance to sit back and take it easy." The CNN reporters, it was pointed out, are forced to look good on camera. YLE's reporters in the field could "probably get away with wearing T-shirts." One person pointed out that YLE employees are civil servants and therefore are "safe" in their jobs. The majority of Finnish viewers were of the opinion that CNN's anchors are "just actors" and don't know a thing about the news. YLE anchors and reporters, some contended, are in fact "trained journalists" with university degrees and Arvi Lind-YLE's best-known anchor-is "personally responsible for what he says."
The presence of behavior-specific lacunae is a reoccurring theme when discussing CNN's news in the presence of Finnish audiences. The reason can usually be traced back to CNN's persistent need to establish contact with audiences on a personal level (cueing). These attempts can, but not always, evoke bewilderment and mistrust by the culturally uninitiated. For the most part, such attempts at cueing are received negatively by Finns and are interpreted as being a sign of insincerity or theatricality, or even being melodramatic.
Typical of CNN's reporting was the use of the close-up shot (or head shot, or even the tight head shot), especially in the sequence in which the Second Survivor told her story. ("We're alive, man!") To quote one of the so-called "Ten Commandments of Television": "Thou shalt not forget that the television screen is a small screen; and the close-up is the all-important shot." This particular survivor was a perfect subject because of her very wide, expressive eyes. The interview began, in fact, with a tight close-up, as if her exceptionally expressive features were anticipated by the camera crew and were to be purposely emphasized. From the American point of view, the camera angles, the anticipation of emotion before it occurs-all are a tribute to the professional standards used at CNN. In Finland, however, such "theatrics" are only appreciated in fictional accounts, not news broadcasts.
Example 6: Asking the experts and giving free publicity on television
The report that Don Johnson was staying in a hotel on Kauai, combined with the interview with Steven Spielberg, provoked a considerable number of responses-mostly negative. Spielberg's opinions on matters as serious as a hurricane were considered "theatrical" and "contrived"; some expressed the opinion that this manner of reporting discredited the Iniki story. Such theatricality put CNN's credibility as a reliable news source into question. YLE, many believed, would "show what really happened" and not ask a popular filmmaker's opinion. This portion of the Iniki story was perceived as "distracting," and combined with the "fast pace," made "deeper contemplation almost impossible." YLE's news, in comparison, supposedly makes it easier for audiences to "think about the events" in more detail. "Finns," I was told, "expect something very formal-not a show" when it comes to a news report.
"Experts," on Finnish television, are most often professionals, academics or other specialists in their fields-not entertainers. That Steven Spielberg (instead of a meteorologist) would be asked to comment about Iniki on television news seemed absurd to the Finn in this study. (Although no one in our group knew it at the time, Spielberg was on Kauai working on his next film, Jurassic Park, when Iniki hit the island.)
One might ascribe this lacuna, namely CNN's decision to interview Spielberg, to the American national psychology-namely, that everything on television should be entertaining or, in any case, about entertainers. This character lacuna would be fitting, but it is also a mental lacuna because it is used to solve the problems of commercial television and its complicated relationship with its customers, the advertisers. The lacuna occurs, therefore, because YLE has no customers.
Schudson calls attention to this fundamental principle of commercial news reporting that, namely, news media are "brokers" for their own news. "Self-advertising," as he calls it, appeals to advertising agents and potential sponsors.
If...everything, including advertising, could and should be news, ( then) everything, including news, could and should be advertising...
Television film producers, especially when children's films are involved, often offer their distributors, namely television stations, who are willing to make a long-term commitment to publicity and advertising, a share of the profits from the sales of licensed products. Publicity and advertising appreciably enhance the value of such products which spin off from the original television program or film. In the case of Jurassic Park, a long list of licensed products are prepared for distribution to markets around the world, long before the film even appears in some localities (Finland, for example) -- the book, cable rights, and the videotape will soon be followed by toy dinosaur eggs, action figures, toy vehicles, stickers, T-shirts, coloring books, comic books, the television cartoon series, and the computer game, to name only a few.
Such linking of commodities is only possible through the "free" publicity offered on commercial television. Children's television, where the practice is often referred to as a "kidvid deal," is especially known for such arrangements. There is no evidence that CNN even made such a deal with Spielberg. However, the Spielberg interview represents an interesting example of what one might call a hedging of advertising bets, a practice which cannot exist in public-service television, nor on YLE. (In other words, perhaps the extra publicity given to Spielberg on Kauai will eventually, in the long run, pay off in advertising revenues.)
A more recent example of commercial television's abilities in "self-advertising," and one which is also associated with the practice of "framing" the news, was the alleged attack by the ice skater Tonya Harding on her American rival in the 1994 winter Olympics, Nancy Kerrigan. Although, before the olympics, there was never any conclusive evidence that Harding was responsible for the violent attack on Kerrigan, the news media made it number one on most news broadcasts-and with good reason. According to David Poltrack, CBS Senior Vice President for Planning and Research, the 1994 Olympic skating contests from Hamar, Norway, would become "one of the historic moments in network television" because of the surprisingly high ratings. Before the Kerrigan-Harding debate, CBS had guaranteed advertisers a rating of 18.6. (Each rating point represents approximately 1 million households.) Following the "media blitz" over the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding dispute, CBS could expect to deliver nearly 40 percent of all American households for 16 full days to their sponsors. Poltrack also stated that this year's higher-than-expected ratings will guarantee audiences for the 1998 games, "paving the way for higher ad rates."
Press reports also said that the Tonya Harding affair turned out to be a "windfall" for advertisers. "Every advertiser that bought the Olympics went out a hero," said David Schweitzer, CBS Vice President for Corporate Relations.Because of the particularities of this lacuna many in the Finnish audience were quite puzzled, and some participants in this study stated that CNN does not appear to be, after all, a real news network, but an entertainment network instead, whose news stories are made as commercials.
Cutaway to: MS of a tent city. Zoom out, with anchor's voice-over.
They came after Hurricane Andrew seeking construction jobs. They settled in the tent cities. Now, they have to get out. The city of Homestead is evicting non-residents from its tent cities today. Florida City is expected to follow suit soon. Meanwhile, Dade County schools are re-opening today.
A medium shot (framed in blue with Headline News logo) of the crowded interior of Space Shuttle Endeavor, now in orbit with an international crew. People -- two women; one is black -- are busy inside doing experiments and floating in weightlessness.
Zoom in (with voice-over). As the anchor's voice-over informs us that Japan is co-sponsoring the flight, we see an extra close up of a Japanese scientist conducting experiments with frogs' eggs.
The scientific research aboard the space shuttle Endeavour was briefly set aside yesterday so astronauts could fix a leaky water valve in the cargo bay laboratory. NASA says the mission is proceeding smoothly. Japan is co-sponsoring the flight, which has a Japanese astronaut on board. The seven-member crew will experiment with metals and study how frogs' eggs develop in zero gravity. NASA's fiftieth shuttle mission is scheduled to last a week and end on Saturday.
Cutaway to: A long shot of Earth, seen below, covered in clouds.
Example 7: Space exploration as a cultural heritage
The Turku audience paid little attention to the Space Shuttle Endeavor sequence. Even when asked directly, few could even recall seeing it and some wondered why it was included. Some did remember that an experiment with Frogs' eggs was carried out. (Which was considered very trivial and almost comical information.)
In this particular content unit, with the flightdeck and an international crew, (could this be Uhura and Mr. Sulu?) American audiences would have some difficulty suppressing an awareness of an inter-relatedness between Space Shuttle Endeavour and the Star Ship Enterprise. Because the space shuttle project has been a national, on-going endeavor, it becomes a lacuna of cultural inheritance and, to a certain extent, would automatically exclude the interest of most Finns.
Within the category of text and lacunae, there is a class of lacunae which rely on specific properties of the text in order to communicate both form and content. In this example, it is the genre and technique of space exploration which is expressed through the news report. Fiske, in Television Culture, devotes an entire chapter to intertextuality and recalls Raymond Williams's analysis of television's flow in which it was shown that "intertextual relations of content" cross over to other genres. In our CNN's report, the spaceship Endeavour, with its crew, would be, according to Fiske, "intertextually inflected by its juxtaposition" with Star Trek. "Genres are popular," writes Fiske, "when their conventions bear a close relationship to dominant ideology..." This particular lacuna, like the genre, does not (yet) bear a close relationship to the dominant ideology in Finland.
Blue-framed MS of Bill Clinton shaking hands and kissing babies in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton will try to match President Bush's push out west this week. Clinton plans a five-day trip, focusing on the economy. He also hopes to debate President Bush next week in Michigan. Bush has not accepted the invitation. Clinton's running mate, Al Gore, attacked President Bush's economic plan at the University of Missouri yesterday. He told students, "Its the same old leftovers." He promised Democrats could best provide good jobs and a clean environment.
(See Example 8 for analysis.)
Al Gore is shown in Missouri, where he attacks Bush's economic plans.
a close up of Anchor Gordon Graham with a graphic of Quayle's head over his left shoulder. Quayle, we are told, is searching for "middle ground" with his stance on abortion. (The chroma changes to show Bush's head.) Bush, on the other hand, is courting conservatives in Orange County.
Vice President Dan Quayle may be backing away from his hard-line position against abortion. Yesterday, he said a Pennsylvania law that restricts, but does not ban abortion, offers a logical approach to a sensitive issue. While
(See Example 9 for analysis.)
the Vice President searches for middle ground, President Bush was courting conservatives in Orange County, California. Jill Doherty reports.
A middle shot of Ronald Reagan at a Republican rally in Orange County.
Then, a close up of Reagan on the podium giving a speech on behalf of Bush.
Bush making a speech.
Campaigning in conservative Orange County, California, George Bush turned to a Republican icon, Ronald Reagan, to lead the charge against Bill Clinton.
If they were elected, and their plan of tax and spend was put into effect, we would be looking back on today's economic times and calling them 'the good ol' days'.
Bush can use Reagan's help. This Republican bastion has been riddled with defections, as California staggers under high unemployment and cut-backs in the defense industry, 'That's bad,' said Bush, 'but it could be worse'.
I know we have big challenges before us, but following Governor Clinton's prescription for our economy would be like going back to the used car lot, picking up the lemon you sold twelve years before, only this time it would have higher prices from inflation, sky-rocketing interest rates for credit, and a hot-air bag thrown in.
A recent poll shows Clinton and Bush running neck and neck in Orange County, with Clinton at 41%, Bush at 40%. This, in a county that pushed him over the top in California in 19-- ...
Example 8: New ways of communicating
Some stories and interviews were considered melodramatic, especially the portrayal of politicians. Finnish politicians, in general, are allowed to speak at length on YLE's evening news, with little or no voice-over commentary. Some pointed out that a YLE news report would have been "more factual" or "neutral" in reporting an election campaign speech. The pace of the format and the use of the camera (one person pointed out that there were no camera movements with action shots) "made viewing easier." "Perhaps," some suggested, "it is meant for people who watch a lot of television."
The Finnish presidential elections of 1994 were definitely more similar, this time around, to American presidential campaigns. One of the strongest candidates in the election, a conservative, appeared with other candidates, including her chief rival, on camera, with her two poodles. No doubt, the poodles accentuated the candidate's love of animals, but had little to do with her political point of view. This occurrence would, for Finnish circumstances, signify an example of change in implicit behavior as well as change in the audience's implicit understanding of the nature of a presidential election as seen on television. These specific ways of looking at elections, or syllogistic lacunae, can also become lacunae of communication, because the same methods used on Wall Street to advertise sponsors' products are now being used, in Finland as well, to advertise presidents.
Example 9: Behavior and personal issues
Practically all participants expressed emotions of puzzlement and perplexity concerning the report that the American Vice-President would have had a "hard-line position" on abortion.
This behavior lacuna is also historical in nature because of the religious inheritance of a small nation whose population is principally Lutheran. This, combined with the syllogistic lacunae of social democracy and an extensive social welfare system, makes abortion a very different topic. Abortion, in Finland, is a very personal issue, as are many such issues, including religion itself. If it is discussed at all, then it is considered a medical question. In any case, because of the assumption that it has to do with medicine, it is not a political issue, and certainly does not belong to the public world of television news discourse. It is therefore very difficult for Finns to understand that abortion would be discussed in an American Presidential campaign speech.
According to a study published in 1992 on the "sexual knowledge," "fears and behaviors" of adolescents in Finland (known as the KISS study), sex education in Finnish schools and adolescent birth control were "public topics" as early as 1965. Today, education on adolescent birth control in Finland concentrates on the pill and the condom, and, according to the study, there is a "high level of sexual knowledge" among Finnish adolescents. Free abortion counseling is available to all adolescents in Finland. However, the KISS study shows that these circumstances
...have not led to increased numbers of abortions, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases or deliveries among adolescent mothers. On the contrary, the numbers of both teenage pregnancies and abortions has diminished since the mid-1970s.
Out of a total of 80 interviews, 6 respondents gave insufficient data for use in this study. Of the remaining 74, the following numbers (right column) agreed with the statements (at left):
Those who agree:
CNN is more entertaining than YLE. 44
CNN's anchors and reporters reminded me of TV actors. 24
CNN, its anchors and reporters did a very professional job. 16
CNN is too US-oriented. 15
CNN is a reliable, credible source of news." 6
CNN's anchors and reporters showed partiality in their reporting. 4
While the lead story, Iniki, received the most time in this particular news report, the Republican presidential campaign in Orange County, California was the second longest with a 1-minute and 7-second voiceover. There were 9 different shots and the political speeches were only sound bites of a second or two in length. By comparison, most stories were shorter than the Presidential-campaign story. For example, 27 seconds were devoted to the Endeavour story, another voice-over consisting of only 3 shots. The longest interview in the whole sequence was with Patricia Saiki on Kauai, which lasted 24 seconds.
Typical of the interviews was the use of the close-up shot (or head shot, or even the tight head shot), especially in the sequence in which the Second Survivor told her story. ("We're alive, man!")
Most stories were presented as voice-overs with the average shot lasting only 5 seconds. Each shot, with the exception of political speeches, consisted of some sort of action. There was, however, much action around the politicians.
American television, it seems to Finns, is very fast paced. CNN also impresses Finnish audiences with its technical competence and enjoys the reputation of being an innovator in news reporting. American audiences, on the other hand, would we see very little difference between CNN's presentation of the news and other daily news broadcasts on American television. CNN's formula is a closer match to the American implicit assumption of the nature of television news that the Finnish. Still, Finnish television audiences experience CNN with mixed emotions. Some may prefer its "business-like rhythm," its fast pace and "amiable" reporters. Others feel, when confronted with CNN's style, that they are witnessing an argument for the American point of view.
While most admired CNN's professional standards, many expressed consternation with the commerciality and seeming superficiality of its style, especially when compared with the Finnish YLE. Many, of course, embraced CNN's style, with its semblance of being modern, up to date, and "international." A few looked upon CNN's presence an intrusion in Finland, an encroachment on the rules of reporting the news, probably because of the publicity it gained in the national press during the Gulf War. Still, others viewed CNN's presence in Finland as a good justification for more commercial television news, or, perhaps, an endorsement for the commercialization of YLE.
Finnish Views of CNN Copyright © 1995 by Brett Dellinger
Order the book:
BRETT DELLINGER (1995). Finnish views of CNN television news: A critical cross-cultural analysis of the American commercial discourse style. Linguistics 6. (Väitöskirja). 337 s. 136 Finnish Marks.