Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Slow news day?

There’s an age-old axiom in the field of journalism: there are no slow news days in the news industry, only slow news people. If that’s the case, then look no further than the post Memorial Day weekend headlines across the region to find a whole slew of slow news people.

Granted, there are always times when the news just doesn’t hum through the newsroom. And with every governmental agency shut down and many of those with political rank on vacation for the extended weekend, finding compelling news isn’t necessarily easy. Not to mention, concentrating on finding something newsworthy isn't an easy task with blue skies rolling overhead along with the essence of region embroiled in barbecue.

But there comes a point when news editors and reporters alike should put their heads together to find something that makes the expended 50 cents or 50 seconds worth it to the public. Largely this weekend, they failed. Among a mélange of prototypical parade reports, there were some true local gems that stood out, hands down, as the most futile attempts at making what would ordinarily be a blurb in the police blotter into front-page news.

Taking the cake as always was The Saratogian, with their stellar coverage in “All safe on the Hudson after two spills,” a gripping story of tragedy averted on New York’s main aquatic by-way. In other words, a handful of inexperienced boaters who, par norm each year, forgot that there are dams along the river –a no brainer for any area resident –and indeed, these dams have intake valves. An honorable mention to Glens Falls Post Star, which further dramatized an event that resulted in little else than one jet ski plumeting several feet over the dam.

For the worst feature printed Monday, The Saratogian also manages to take first prize, with their piece, “Dressage ball a success,” in which the writer should adopt the pseudonym, Heir Jordan, for blathering about the Spa City’s so-called stars –or as their more commonly known, rich folk. Another mention goes out to The Saratogian’s sister paper, The Troy Record, whose editors managed send a reporter to cover a woman’s 100th birthday celebration, but had to rely upon a television news affiliate for their coverage of a teen who died jumping into the Mohawk River Sunday.

In another Memorial Day weekend editorial fumble, The Daily Gazette decided the dead teen wasn’t worth a mention on the front or local page. Instead, they opted for an oversized headline about some postman caught with several disks of kiddy porn at his home, burying the drowning on the inside as nothing more than a headlined brief.

Kudos, guys. Way to ink a name for print media.

But any bashing of the print media must rehash some of the clear losers that made it into the world of broadcast journalism. Take for instance, the post-holiday weekend hangover that shined through Capital News 9's coverage.

As if renaming the Great Sacandaga Lake wasn't enough, the story “Staying afloat amid high gas prices,” attempts to solicit sympathy from the viewer for boaters who just can’t seem to make ends meet these days. Sure, it’s easy to feel bad for the working-class family trying to pull together some fun for the weekend. But the owner of a yacht that takes nearly 300 gallons of gas? Not quite.

Local News 9 also managed to squeak in a preview of this week’s oft-ignored state Democrat Convention in Buffalo, a pre-preview of a same-sex lawsuit in the state Court of Appeals, and of course, the good-weather-spells-rosy-outlook-for-business story, which many other news agencies in their lethargy neglected this weekend. Perhaps they’re saving something for Wednesday’s broadcast.

Yes, finding something worthy of public attention is difficult with skeleton crews and limited resources. But the bottom line is, a good news organization will understand this and find a way to get the job done, even if the sky isn’t falling.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The great art of running a newspaper is the art of guessing where hell is liable to break loose next." -Joseph B. McCullagh

Based on your piece, not one paper in the capital region mastered this art yesterday. Sometimes the select few figure out how to do it, but they're few and far between. It seems whenever you're looking for something quality, impressive, or well-written, you can't seem to find it these days. I often wonder if it is simply a skill or a creative art to be a quality reporter. Certainly, the very best reporter knows where to go to find a story, in the people of its community. Ask questions. I've watched too many reporters sit on their ass and wait for news to come to them, be it the scanner or an editor handing them a crappy idea. Those stories almost always don't amount to anything because editors aren't out in the real world everyday understanding the community. Wouldn't one think that if they were out of the office, then no one could try and assign them some horrible piece? It takes great courage to talk to complete strangers, to look someone in the eye, and ask tough questions. Reporters have the ability to position themselves in places others in most professions can't. It's unfortunate they don't realize this and get the hell out of the newsroom and find some real news.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

A year late and a dollar short?

I was surprised to find mention of a story I wrote for the Saratogian a full year after it was published.

Must have been a slow news day for you!

For what it's worth, I actually like your take on things and I will gladly sign my name.

5:44 AM  

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