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OMG! Star Tribune relaunches ‘NewsBreak’

When the Star Tribune cut back its much-mocked vidcast “NewsBreak” to two days a week this summer, I figured its was the beginning of the end. But the cynical media critic was wrong! As promised, it’s back and …

When the Star Tribune cut back its much-mocked vidcast “NewsBreak” to two days a week this summer, I figured it was the beginning of the end.

But the cynical media critic was wrong! As promised, it’s back and … better.

Never fear, haters: there are still some public-access production values to jeer at, and this viewer remains more interested in the idea of NewsBreak — the quest, if you will — than the actual execution. I also still fear a scripted newscast from non-newscasters remains a big time-waster in a shrunken newsroom. But let’s discuss the improvements first:

Lileks and Lopez on the spooky new set
Lileks and Lopez on the spooky new set

1. They’ve decoupled headlines from the rest of the show.

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2. The headline segment, a tidy 80 seconds, focuses on things that happened that morning. I’m the sort of person who likes to read the headlines, not watch someone reading them, but if you’re wired this way, it works.

3. The graphics, while simple, work.

4. The headline-reading host (James Lileks today) is framed pleasantly by a newsroom that looks like actual people work there. For some reason, this was not the case before. And for some reason, it’s not the case elsewhere (see below).

5. The longer segment, at least today, clicks right away with a pretty good debrief from political editor Pat Lopez, on the Sex Offender big-screen TV story. I’ve urged more of these, and this one flowed nicely.

6. A better job integrating video elsewhere on the site (Goldy Gopher mocking a praying Penn State football player). NewsBreak is obviously to promote the daily “greatest hits” package, and that’s fine.

The rotten tomatoes?

1. The long-segment backdrop looks like Lileks and Lopez are inside one of those black plastic leaf bags that are about to be banned. I get that it’s supposed to highlight the big screen TV monitor (non-sex-offender model), but Lileks is too perky to be trapped in Dracula’s Lair. Cable access touch #1.

2. Please, God, please: lose the life-force-draining “Your Voices” promo. Those people look like drugged or animatronic. Cable access touch #2.

3. Seven minutes for a video segment still feels way too long.

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4. The hosts are still fish out of water, and this still feels more conventional and dutiful than original and inspired.