I have grown cocky in the abilities of what I've begun to regard as a trademark around here, my Random News Generator. It's drawn a couple duds, to be sure, but, top to bottom, it's done pretty well; given up some pretty good stories.
In fact, I would wager that, given as similar circumstances as possible, the RNG could hang with, and possibly even outdo, the guys on TV.
So today, we begin a three-day showdown between TV news and the RNG. I make it three days because this particular three-day stretch includes TV news' three major moods: Saturday Mode, Sunday Mode, and Weekday Mode. Saturday sees the news at its most lazy, by and large. Sunday- particularly Sunday morning- sees the news at its best. The weekdays- represented here by Monday- sees the news in a 'normal' mode, if you will. Therefore, it would only do to test all three in one go.
Here's how the showdown will work:
*The TV will be scored first.
*I will channel-surf on my own TV. I have Charter, in an area that serves both the Madison and Milwaukee markets, for reference.
*I will stop at any channel that is airing a news program at the time I reach it. Business channels count (such as CNBC), sports channels do not (such as ESPN), and entertainment channels do not (such as E!); though if a sports or entertainment story is aired on a non-sports network, it will count. Commercials are excused.
*I will record whatever story is being aired by that network at that very moment. Whatever they're reporting on, that's how they're scored. Top story, bottom story, fluff piece about cheese-rolling, doesn't matter. If I stop on a commercial, or I arrive too late in the piece to figure out what story they've chosen, the next story aired will be the one scored. If I can catch the name of the reporter in question, I will record that as well.
RANDOM NEWS GENERATOR
*The RNG will be scored second, as the first step in its scoring is to find out how many networks have contributed a report.
*However many networks have been scored, the RNG will be run an equivalent number of times. If nine networks have aired a news program, there will be nine spins of the RNG.
*Normal procedure is, I would take the 232 nations/territories/dependencies/etc. that make up the RNG, randomly select one, and cherry-pick the best news story from there as seen on Google News, unless the country is a total dud, in which case I spin again. That will not be done here.
*Instead, it will be the very first story given; the top result for the given country on Google News. If the nation's a dud, too bad. If the story is inferior to another one further down, too bad. If the particular link given is inferior to another write-up on the same story, too bad. An allowance will be given so as to ensure coherent use of the English language, but that is it. What comes up, comes up.
The aim here is to see, top-to-bottom, who does a better job of reporting in terms of story selection: the TV guys as a team, or my virtual dartboard. By 'story selection', I mean in terms of 'natural disaster vs. that Spanish tomato-throwing festival'.
This is Day 1 of the competition: Saturday. TV news at its worst. Its laziest. Most of the big guns of the industry are off at the bar or something. MSNBC is airing prison documentaries all day and I have decided they will be punished for that by having it scored and allowing the RNG that one extra spin.
Due to the sheer amount of stories covered here, we won't get too much into context. Just mention what is being reported, and move on.
So here goes. TV first.
ABC: Start of the Chris Matthews Show. It's election coverage, specifically comparisons between Obama and Clinton.
National Geographic: An episode of Explorer; Inside LSD.
CNN: A house party shooting in Los Angeles. 12 dead.
CNN Headline News: 4th lawsuit filed against Georgia pastor Eddie Long regarding sexual misconduct. Natasha Curry reporting.
FOX News: Panel discussion concerning US requesting that China buy a stake in GM.
MSNBC: Not prison documentaries, lucky for them. They'll put an actual story onthe board. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg donating $100 million as a grant to Newark schools. Rehema Ellis reporting, Alex Witt anchoring.
CNN International: Sports news. Specifically, the starting grid for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Bloomberg: Cris Valerio interviews FUBU CEO Daymond John. At the point I got there, the discussion had gotten to his role on ABC's 'Shark Tank'.
That makes for eight channels, a pretty low number, as there was a fair bit of paid programming to go through, and it took a second round through the channels to get ABC squeezed in. National Geographic snuck in by a lucky shot; Explorer is the only show on the network one could call a news program and including it really only helps the TV squad out. Eight spins of the RNG.
The RNG lineup:
Trinidad and Tobago
Antigua and Barbuda
Bad, bad luck for the RNG here. That's a terrible draw at the top three. Picked a bad time to pull those.
San Marino: Their 6-0 loss to Sweden in Euro 2012 qualifying two and a half weeks ago.
Trinidad and Tobago: More soccer. A preview of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup final, held in Trinidad and Tobago, in which it will be South Korea vs. Japan.
Antigua and Barbuda: The second story was about three suspended members of their electoral commission, but that's not the one that scores. The one that scores concerns the 2010 Caribbean Surf Ski Tour.
Syria: Syria criticizing the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, for not censuring Israel over a refusal to allow inspections.
Mauritania: Their army denies the death of 19 soldiers in a clash with al Qaeda in northern Mali.
Georgia: There were two dates in which the New York Philharmonic was scheduled to visit; these are now cancelled over budget issues on Georgia's side.
Romania: Their president has given up police protection after thousands of officers protested a decision to cut their pay by 25 percent. He still has Presidential security, though.
Panama: Drug enforcement agents seized three tons of cocaine, purported to be a record.
After the weak start, the RNG recovered very quickly.
The best faces put forward on Day 1 by TV would have to be the election coverage, Inside LSD and the Facebook grant to Newark schools. The RNG responded with the IAEA criticism, Romanian police protests and Panamaian cocaine seizure.
The worst faces: for TV, the Singapore Grand Prix, Daymond John interview and probably the pastor scandal. For the RNG, soccer and surfing.
TV on Day 1 wasn't nearly as strong on the front end, but it proved consistent enough to where the bottom-tier stories held up reasonably well. The RNG was very erratic: a strong top-tier, but a ruinous back end.
Both have two days to improve. TV's first string is still coming up; the RNG can certainly draw better than it did here.