Friday, June 09, 2006

Whose news now?

If there’s a news network trying desperately to keep pace with steady downward spiral of small-market newspapers, then it’s Capital News 9, whose so-called “news now” approach to covering the day’s events apparently boils down to turning up the scanner and waiting until the tips line starts ringing off the hook. This is despite a mission statement that depicts the station as the great protectorate of community-oriented journalism.

Granted, producing 24 hours of news on a minimal budget with a staff that’s largely comprised of news rookies and neophytes can’t be easy. But to go on air each day without a clue as to the day’s pertinent news items is sheer buffoonery, even for those among the News 9 staff who can count the hours since they received their bachelor’s degree.

Typically, the best way to find news is to have a reporter living and interacting in a given community. That reporter can then determine with a fair degree of accuracy the importance of certain events. But presented with a cash-starved budget, most producers are hesitant to send a news crew –rather a 20-something camera-wielding post-intern –into the field to chase a story that might not pan out by the 7 p.m. broadcast.

Given this circumstance, the best way to get a broad idea of the region’s issues is to pick up a cross-section of area newspapers and actually read the articles. It doesn’t take much time, perhaps an hour a day. But from this exercise, any news station should be able to glean at least two interesting tidbits from each paper worthy of placing a phone call or two.

Not News 9. In fact, most of their reporters and so-called “anchors” have difficulty producing just one story per day. Even if they do manage such a feat –something that is expected from all print media journalists –generally the stories lack depth, insight or even a single source, which violates a whole host of journalistic ethics.

When they’re not missing the mark or flat-out plagiarizing, these future broadcast anchors of America are chasing sirens to every small fender-bender or swelled creak in the Capital Region. Were it not for careless drivers or inclement weather, it seems News 9 would loose the greater portion of their daily broadcast.

Now, if News 9's producers, or better yet, their staffers were to take even a passing interest in journalism, then maybe they’d try talking to some local people, learning some of the issues and reporting news that actually affects a broad range of people, not just the smarting victim of a car crash.

After all, there are more interesting things happening outside that don’t involve ambulances that might spur an iota of thought among the thousands of board viewers watching the all-day CNN-esque network. That is, at least, if one is to look past the Post Star’s Web headlines this morning.

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