Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Don't Feel Too Bad...

News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy issues a "mea culpa" of sorts on his site in regards to the headline in this morning's paper:
Blood on their hands: Did Va. Tech officials do enough?

McElroy explains a bit the thinking behind the headline:
The newspaper's story, we knew, could not and should not simply recite what occurred as if we were delivering fresh news. Instead, we knew we would have to examine new angles. Likewise, a straight headline reporting the massacre would seem quite dated, and the suggestion was made to look for a quote that might serve as a headline, advancing the story and reflecting its emotional impact.
Jack shouldn't feel too badly, since the Sentinel was trying to think ahead and project out what would be of interest the next morning. However NBC News Nightline last night presented an hour's worth of "coverage" that was little more than thinly-veiled accusations, innuendo, and "I wonder if..." masquerading as same-evening coverage of the massacre. Throughout the broadcast (at least the first half, after which I couldn't watch any more through my disgust) the NBC News staff floated all kinds of questions like, "Did administration officials do enough" without real evidence at that point to back any kinds of questions up.

We hear it all the time these days...no questions may exist in a particular controversy until a reporter floats out a speculative question or two - then through repetition the questions become accusations and reputations are ruined.

I'm not saying they're at all untrue - the Va. Tech officials may have a lot to answer for in the days and weeks ahead - but at that point in the story it was too soon for the media to begin pointing fingers, winking and nudging the hand of blame away from the shooter and toward the school.

But it's all in the name of ratings, of course. Sensationalism is the norm, and just reporting the facts is boring.

News Sentinel, at least you tried to think ahead. You deal with an impossible 24-hour news story turnaround in an instant access news world. But NBC has no such excuse.

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