Information and entertainment: an impossible mix?

Entertainment news

What if the traditional news media (news, report, survey, etc.) had become too austere for the spectator of the 21st century? The alternative often offered by the channels is the so-called “infotainment” format. This genre offers to hook the public by mixing information and entertainment. Impertinence and laughter are often the order of the day. But in what proportion should the mixture be done? In 2012, the Petit Journal rigged a sequence to favor laughter over information; this significant sequence requires a light on gender.

The question of the balance between information and entertainment is delicate because it touches the very foundation of the editorial lines of these programs. Which dimension should take precedence over the other? Extreme cases have already been observed and experience shows that sometimes entertainment takes precedence over information. The textbook case in this area is a sequence passed in the Petit Journal in October 2012 concerning a speech given by Jean-Marc Ayrault  [ 1 ]]. In this subject, the team of Yann Barthès privileged the humorous formatting to the authenticity of the facts by skilfully tampering with a sequence diffused on the antenna. The result: a very funny sequence for the audience but factually truncated. The case is symbolic and pushes the public to wonder about the identity and the mechanisms of functioning of the genre.

Infotainment responds to the needs felt by publishers to reinvent the format of information to capture the attention of the public. For many producers or journalists, the current conditions of the information market justify the use of new forms of news including infotainment. At least this is what François Mazure, presenter of the magazine 7 à la Une  [ 2 ], says  : ” I think that the information offer is so important, […] that at times and also to interest different audiences, it is important to have new forms. This is where infotainment has its place, you first have to find subjects that are sometimes a little different and modify the form to [reach] people who may not necessarily have the reflex to go to the market. ‘information  ‘  [ 3 ] .

And yet these ”  new forms »Are questionable on many aspects: economic model, relationship with the political world, reception of the public…. One of the possible inputs, which will be developed here, is that of the audio-visual language of these programs. First, because language necessarily induces a reading frame between the viewer and the presenter of the show (the viewer does not demand the same from a newscast as from an entertainment show). However, infotainment is precisely quite ambiguous on this aspect: the reading contract being quite variable (to make people laugh or to inform?). Then, because the use of audiovisual language favors a particular reading of the story told rather than another. So these shows always deliver a point of view on their subject.

Secondly, it will be a question of analyzing the staging of the journalist in the sequences dealing with international news. This choice is justified by the fact that this section is very often presented as the poor relation of current affairs  [ 4 ] (the mainstream media devote less and less time to it; the processing of international information is considered rather lame; it is difficult to hook your audience with this section…). Examining the imaging of these sequences is therefore interesting because it allows us to see how the infotainment genre tries to make these subjects attractive.

An ambiguous reading frame

Where news broadcasts often adopt a sober and rather solemn tone ( the high mass of 8 p.m. ), infotainment offers a lighter, quirky, even humorous tone. The objective is to be modern and to interest a young audience (15-35 years), and if possible to create a bond with it. A key moment in this relationship building is the launch of the on-set sequences. When the presenter reads the few sentences that precede the start of the sequence, he announces both the key elements of the information but also the reading instructions. These will serve as beacons for the viewer. As stated by Thierry Lancien  [ 5 ] in his work on the television news: “ The launch of the sequences is an information role, the presenter can seek, as in a newspaper article cap, to provide initial answers to the usual questioning (Who? Where? When? Etc.) practiced by the editorial staff. . […] But beyond this informative role, one realizes, by considering closely the launches of JT, that the titles play a very important role in the mediation that the presenter chooses to set up between the report and the viewer. First of all, it seems to us that a certain number of launches have a role that could be qualified as “textual guidance”. After a quick presentation of the information, the presenter, with just a few words, indicates to the recipient what will be the dominant textual tone of the report and the genre to which it belongs ” [ 6 ] . In this logic, the presenter’s trays inserts, his tone or his gestural communication are all elements that participate in the construction of the meaning of the sequences that follow as well as that of a relationship of complicity between the audience and the presenter. . Audience and presenter begin to share the same vision of a subject (serious, cynical, committed…). For example, if the Petit Journal broadcasts a sequence on Fashion Week, the on-set announcement will very quickly announce how the subject will be treated  [ 7 ]by the wording and the way in which it should be understood by the public. But if this reading frame holds for a sequence, it is not uncommon for the presenter to switch from one tone (humorous) to another (serious) within a program; hence the mixture of reading frames. But if the imposition of meaning through language begins as soon as the subject is announced, the logic extends into the actuality sequences themselves.

Induce meaning and complicity

To understand how sequences are constructed, we must start from the notion of angle. In journalism, an angle is the part of the subject that the journalist will cover. Indeed from the same subject a multitude of angles are possible. For example the visit of a Head of State to Belgium. On this same event, the journalist must choose an angle to develop (he cannot talk about everything at the same time): the logistical organization of this visit; the reception by the Belgian public of the manager; how this visit is perceived from the outside; the political content of this visit; … All these angles lead to different questions: the journalist chooses one and a tone to build his sequence. The critical issue is to identify the point of view (angle) of the journalist. What is he trying to say about his subject? Once the angle has been identified, the sequence can be analyzed because its construction is based around this point of view.

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