News trumps entertainment for most memorable TV moments

Associated Press | Reuters | Gallup

A survey by Sony and Nielsen shows that television coverage of major news events are more memorable than entertainment and pop culture events like the finales of popular TV shows and the Super Bowl. The top 5 most memorable moments:

  1. September 11 attacks (2001)
  2. Hurricane Katrina - the levees break (2005)
  3. OJ Simpson murder verdict (1995)
  4. Challenger Space Shuttle disaster (1986)
  5. Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)

News events dominated the top 20. Reuters reports:

"What's interesting for me is not what's on the list, but what's not on the list," said Brian Siegel, vice president of television for Sony Electronics. "There wasn't entertainment - no Super Bowl, no 'Friends' finale. It was all news and events ... Memories that are ubiquitous among all of us."

The study also shows how an event that once transfixed the nation fades over time "simply because succeeding generations have no personal memory of them," the Associated Press reports, noting that the moon landing ranked 21st.

Age also made a big difference in the survey. JFK's assassination was the second-most impactful TV event among people 55 and over, while for those between 18 and 34, it was the death of Osama bin Laden.

Young people also ranked Barack Obama's Election Night speech in 2008 at No. 3, while that didn't move older viewers quite as much (No. 24).

Gallup, meanwhile, reports that confidence in television news has reached a new low, with 21 percent of adults saying they had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence. Newspapers are at 25 percent, three percentage points above its low of 22 percent.

Liberals now have less confidence in TV news than conservatives.

The poll was taken before CNN and Fox News erred in initially reporting the results of the Supreme Court's health care ruling, which Gallup says could further hurt the credibility of TV news.

CNN has promised an internal review, and its handling of the outcome of that review could help to bolster confidence. More broadly, these and other networks -- and the news media as a whole -- will have to renew their efforts to show Americans that they deserve a higher level of confidence than what they enjoy today.

Gallup doesn't offer an explanation for the decline of confidence in TV news, but says it mirrors similar drops in other U.S. institutions such as public schools.

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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