Some afterthoughts on coverage of the Nevaeh Buchanan story.
There’s more to evaluating news coverage than timeliness. Accuracy, relevance, usefulness, balance and appropriate presentation all are important, too.
In my new role – as a college journalism professor, not a newspaper editor – commenting on the media goes with the territory. Before, my role was to explain and defend. Now it’s to analyze and evaluate.
As many people have mentioned on MonroeTalks.com, The Evening News’ coverage after a slow start has met most of those tests. I can’t say the same for some of the area TV stations.
It wouldn’t be fair to make a blanket statement about all of the television coverage, because I haven’t monitored it closely enough. Some has been very good. But some of the TV stations seemed to be more interested in exploiting the story for ratings than in presenting useful information.
They spent more of their precious on-air seconds promoting the story than reporting it. They focused more video on emotional responses than on facts. And they played rumors or minor sidebars like they were big breakthroughs, even when they knew they probably weren’t.
To be fair, that’s what TV does. This criticism is valid for much of TV news coverage. They intensely promote because they’re in intense competition. Given the choice, they’ll almost always push emotional video over boring facts. And they’re desperate for anything new – so they grab at rumors just to make it appear they have a hot breakthrough.
As consumers of news, we just need to understand that about TV news, whether local or national.
Yes, monroenews.com and The Evening News lost out to other media in this story when it comes to timeliness. The Evening News, as a news organization, usually errs on the side of being careful and cautious, not sensational. That puts it at a disadvantage when covering a big story.
But in the long run, I think that’s a good thing. As media converge and the digital news world grows, consumers will have more sources of news than they can imagine. I think people eventually will gravitate to the media outlets they feel they can trust.
The Evening News will get faster as it learns the ropes of the digital world. I hope there is never a next time for this kind of story. But next time Evening News reporters are faced with a big, breaking story, they’ll respond more quickly.
I hope they keep their careful approach to reporting facts, debunking rumors and maintain balance and proportion in presenting the news.