Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Soapbox moment: The media today

If you live in the DC area, you surely have heard about the situation on the Metro yesterday.  If not, I'll give you the short recap:
"Around 3:30 January 12th, 2014, the platform at L'Enfant Plaza began to fill with smoke from an unknown location.  It billowed so quickly that the people on the platform and in the train cars in the station were unable to leave immediately.  The people on the platforms and in the station were able to leave first but those in the train cars were trapped for some time before finally leaving the cars and walking through the station up to the street level.  Sadly, roughly 80 people were affected by the seemingly toxic smoke.  Some were unconscious, some were violently ill, and two remain in critical condition in local hospitals.  One unfortunate woman died shortly after emergency services got her to the hospital.  As of this morning, the explanation for the event was an electrical fire."
See - that's how you report an event.  The facts that you actually know.  No need to brow beat in how sad this was or how scared people were.  In fact, if they hadn't been scared THAT would have been worth reporting.  "One man said he didn't see what the big deal was, he had his charcoal mask handy and was able to resume his book by the light of his cell phone flashlight app.  He assumes the rest of the riders were simply weak."  Sure you need to tell us how it will affect traffic and why your commute may suck for a few days.  It's important to know what city officials plan to do to correct the situation and aid the injured.  You can even talk about progress within the Metro system since the last major event and ideas for better preparedness in the future.  But with a tone of sharing information and knowledge, not like the host of the latest fright night show.

I have about had it with the sensationalism.  There are stories that need reporting.  Facts that should be shared.  As a reporter for a NEWS show, you have a responsibility to stow your opinions and colorful descriptors.  Don't speculate unless you're on a talk show or comedy pundit review.  Don't make jokes about the events that shape a nation in small steps.  Spend more time on the positive and less harping on the negative, unless you plan to follow it with a solution!

If every news channel is going to treat their reporting as an editorial talkshow - a current events version of TMZ - then stop calling yourself news channels.  Find a new name... like "Neighborhood gossip" or "The Bridge Club".

That's all I'm going to say, but honestly - take a hard look at where you are getting your information these days and the people delivering it.  Hold them to a higher standard.  If we don't, no one will.

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