Media Moves

The cold business vs. the warm community

March 3, 2016

Posted by Allen Wastler

Allen Wastler 3Have you ever noticed something I call the “The ’60 Minutes’ Scene” in video news reports, particularly in community vs. company themed stories?

It’s the tendency for interviews with the community members to be in real life settings like the outdoors, in the sun, with children and animals frolicking in the background. Or in a local bar or pub, with friendly locals crowding around. Or in a park.

The interviews representing the company or business side of the story? Typically indoors, in an office, with an uptight executive or spokesperson in a business suit.

The juxtaposition could add a little background bias to the overall report, no? Community representation is warm and human while business representation is remote, isolated and corporate.

I call it “The 60 Minutes Scene” because the revered TV news magazine set the style decades ago. So much so it’s been spoofed in various ways over the years on comedy shows.

Now why does this happen in a craft that ostensibly should be objective about how it presents its reports? I doubt it’s consciously conceived. I’ve never heard a news producer set out with the explicit idea: “Hey, let’s make sure shoot one side in bucolic settings and the other in sterile settings, just to make one side sympathetic and the other side cold.”

It’s more likely a combination of things. The simple and direct reason is logistics. You find community members in a community, so that’s where you send your camera crew. The business side of the story? Call the PR department and set up an interview in a company office.

Visuals also play a factor. It is, after all, a video report so the chance to make it eye catching and pretty — sunrise on a farm, anyone? —is not something to pass up. (Sunrise on the company parking lot? Not so uplifting).

There’s also the notion of “Well, that’s the way it’s always been done.” Sure it has; so much so it’s becoming cliché, just like a number of other TV news devices.

Some TV news outfits recognize the cliché (if not the possible bias) and work to avoid it. And, in fairness to “60 Minutes,” it’s become a lot more hip and creative about how it presents various sides of the story. Some PR departments also seem to be getting wise and putting their spokes folk in more trendy settings.

Nevertheless, the warm community scene vs. the cold corporate setting still pops up with regularity. Indeed, some other judges and I observed instances while reviewing entries in the Best in Business Awards for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers last week.

It’s a cliché. Worse, it’s unfair. Now, anyone for a sunrise?

Allen Wastler is the former managing editor of and the former managing editor of

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