Saturday, January 13, 2007

Video rules the line-up

I found an article in the CJR Daily that struck me because we've all heard our broadcast instructors ask us, "Is there video?" whenever we want to do a story. This article, in particular, says that news values have gone out the window... as long as the story has video, it can get aired, even if the video is bad-quality home video.

In this case, the author highlights what she calls the "Tiggergate" incident, where the person dressed in a Tigger costume at Disney World supposedly punches the teenage son of a family during a photo shoot. She says the only reason this "story" made it to all the major networks and cable was because it was caught on video.

Indeed, I find this incident to be rather silly and not very newsworthy. Yet while good video is crucial to broadcast journalism, its significance and relevance to the general public should also be a factor in whether or not the story gets told. How many children out there will get socked in the face by a dressed-up character while at a theme park? Where is the relevance to people's everyday lives? Umm... I don't see the connection.

At the same time, we want our newscasts to have a variety of serious-light stories. But news judgment also comes into play here. Not only should we consider whether or not a story has video but also consider its importance. Had there been no light stories that could have been covered instead of Tiggergate, I might have said, "Cover it." It does have video, albeit not very good video.

Video should not be the final card in whether a story gets told. All elements of newsworthiness/variety/relevance/video (or lack thereof) should be taken into consideration. An important story that must be told should get told, even if it has no video. But a story with video that has no significance whatsoever should be kept on the sideburner, unless there is absolutely nothing else to fill the news hole.


To view the article and the video, links are here:
Have Video, Will Air It


At Saturday, January 13, 2007, Anonymous Tai-Chi Kuo said...

hrmm... that does pose the question as to why something should be considered newsworthy. obviously the visual element is appealing, and will attract viewers and raise ratings... after all, in the grand-scheme of things, aren't news providers for-profit entities anyway? where/how would you propose to strike a balance between journalistic integrity and making money?

At Saturday, January 13, 2007, Anonymous JK said...

I think you have an interesting point. The web site measures every week the most highly covered news stories. There are usually just a few that are published and covered by all media.

What I found most interesting is that President Ford's funeral was the most highly covered news story the first week of the new year. The reason why? It was visual! Tons and tons of video to program the network.

Not that the death of a president isn't important, but you are right, there are important stories being missed because video is viewed as more important than substance.

At Sunday, January 14, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both your post and the CJR article serve as good reminders that while broadcast journalism is a visual medium, it is not just about putting up sensational or entertaining pictures.

In my opinion, the event wasn't that newsworthy and important. But I did overhear people on the street talking about the actual incident at Disney World. If the event is something that is going to grab the audience's attention and have them talking about it later - does that make it newsworthy? (oh yes, I went there - the audience, our audience).

Do we give them what they want or what we think they should want? And have their wants been cultivated by the media to begin with?

I don't know.


At Sunday, January 14, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

The question of newsworthiness does seem to fly out the window in broadcast.

Remember our Saddam problem on Tuesday? What about when questionable video becomes available for a legit news story?

This is a disgusting thing to admit, but I was dismayed to hear that Steve Irwin's widow destroyed all the footage of his death. I'm so used to having the visual companion -- whether it's Britney's vagina or Lindsay and Paris' latest feud -- available that its absence seems . . . unfair.

Remember when we were happy to use our imaginations?



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