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Former television personality Margaret Smoot told an audience at Campus Education Week that television is a lot like most people, "lots of wonderful potential but a miserable reality."

Smoot, introducing herself as a retired journalist, "the best kind," said she had served two masters and seen both sides, in and out of the media, in her career first as a broadcast news anchor, then as Brigham Young University's public relations spokesman and now as president of a communications company."Happiness is getting home and finding you do NOT have a `Call Rod Decker at Channel 2' message on the answering machine," said Smoot. "I learned that happiness at times is being ignored by the media."

Smoot said her experiences as a reporter taught her, at the very least, to be a more sensitive viewer and to realize that everyone's life is fodder for a made-for-TV movie.

She quoted several statistics that underline the power television has over people, noting that the average person watches 3,000 days of TV in his or her lifetime or spends the equivalent of nine years in front of the set.

Sixty percent have changed sleeping patterns to fit a television viewing schedule. Sixty-five percent altered eating habits, while 78 percent used the TV as an electronic baby sitter.

Ninety-eight percent of the homes in America have at least one TV. Thirty-seven percent have more than one, and more households have color sets than black and white.

"I have, for many years, believed in the power of television," said Smoot. "That's not saying it's perfect."

One of the concerns is that people think if "they see it, it's true" and with a visual medium like television, that is great power, she said.

A recent survey Smoot referred to found more people today only get news from TV and people will believe TV over print media two to one.

"That's bad news for newspapers," she said. "It means we know a lot of things but almost nothing."

Television creates passivity, said Smoot. "We sit and watch life go by when we cannot afford to be passive and uninvolved."

The gospel (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is one of growth, of change and progression," said Smoot, "and of responding and enlarging. We cannot sit and watch."

When television illuminates a life that teaches, it does good things, said Smoot, such as a feature on a patient couple who waited 10 years to adopt or on a coach with multiple sclerosis who taught state champions from a wheelchair.

When a story promotes something dark like fascination with the occult, Smoot said, "There are no excuses, not even just for fun," referring to a story she did but regretted.

"I believe in the power of the image but only when we see what the Lord would see."