Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Having been in the news business for more than 15 years, I feel I have the right to comment (and criticize) on the news business.  And today, I just have the need to rant a bit.

When will the networks learn?  Yesterday, the worst storm in practically forever, hit the central United States.  It spread from Texas to Maine covering the area with ice, snow, and gale force winds.  It is estimated that 100 million people were affected by this storm.  Thousands of schools were closed across the area, including Chicago schools for the first time in 17 years. Major highways including portions of I-70 and I-44 in Missouri and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago were closed.  Four states declared national emergencies.  I could go on..... Yet what did two of the major news outfits lead with?  Egypt.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I know that the uprising in Egypt is a huge international story.  I'm not saying don't do a good job of explaining what is happening there, and how it affects the rest of the world, and why I should care.  But what I am saying is most people, stuck at home, or stranded somewhere, want to know about the storm.  The storm is affecting them, personally, now.  Lead with the storm. And please, don't wait to cover the storm until it gets to New York (where the network is), since most of us don't live in New York.

And as a side note about the Egypt coverage....what is this infatuation about sending your anchors to the story?  Katie Couric has no business covering that story.  She's an anchor.  Leave her and Brian Williams in the studio.

I usually don't like ABC news coverage best. (That could be because my news life was working for a CBS, and then an NBC station), but on this one they got it right.  They led with the storm.  Yes.  And then they sent an anchor, but a veteran international news correspondent-turned anchor, Christiane Amanpour to cover the situation in Egypt.

Now, back in the day, I remember a discussion about what is news supposed to report:  What people should know, or what people want to know. ( The question came up on a nothing happening local news day when I led with Michael Jackson's hair catching on fire while he was performing in Kansas City when many of our local people had made the trip for the concert.) What people should know, or what people want to know....That sounds like a kind of arrogant question but I suppose the right answer is both.  But if you don't give them what they want, they aren't going to stick around for what you think they should know.

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