Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Localize it

After news agencies across the globe took a good beating this week on the over-dramatized arrest of a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder, some still weren’t willing to throw in the towel. And if there’s one news agency that’s perennially slow on the pickup, it’s the geniuses over at Capital News 9.

For a brief spell Tuesday afternoon, News 9 posted an abhorrent piece of footage –lest it be called journalism –on their Web site about how a local psychologist knew all along that John Karr didn’t kill the six-year-old girl nearly a decade ago.

Right. Him and about everyone else on the planet who wasn’t running around frantically with a microphone and video camera for the cable news networks.

What’s more distressing about the piece of one-source video reporting is that someone over at News 9 actually thought it would be a newsworthy item to interview a relatively unknown psychologist who never met, much less spoke with Karr; a man who for all intensive purposes only knows this individual from the snippets he was watching on television.

To the channel’s credit, someone must have realized the flawed thinking in airing such a piece of one-source garbage, or at least took note that people are tired of hearing about this case altogether. In place of the video feed is a glib paragraph about how ol’ Doc Cale –no mention of where he’s from –was never duped into believing Karr offed the baby beauty queen.

But the good reporting doesn’t end there. Also this week, News 9 also endeavored to localize the Comair plane crash in Kentucky in a way that no other news agency could. Again hitting the streets for a local angle, the news reporter found a pilot from Albany to give his 10 cents on the crash and how he’s baffled over it just like everyone else.

In this case, however, News 9 never bothers to qualify this pilot as anything more than a recreational flyer who takes his Cesna out for a joyride on weekends. And as even the most inexperienced pilot will affirm, flying a single- engine prop is a bit different than a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100. Not to mention, it’s difficult for a pilot to comment on markings at a particular airstrip when that pilot has never set a foot on the tarmac.

This sort of shoddy journalism is a typical response by many smaller branches of the media attempting to ride the gravy train of big national news; localize it, come up with a local angle, find anything to make the john on the corner feel like he’s there experiencing it first hand. But there comes a point when these reports become a bit laughable.

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