Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lost in the shuffle

The Virginia Tech shootings rightfully dominated the headlines across the country for most of the past week. But there are two significant events that occured that occured this past week and both didn't get the attention they usually would have.

Attorney Genearl Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee was a critical moment for his personal job safety and the future of the Bush administration. The hearings would have led the nightly news and captivated the front covers of newspaper's across the nation. As it turned out, even though the hearings were covered, the story was buried behind Virginia Tech.

And that is a completely understandable decision by news organizations everywhere, the country is still reeling from the shock of that horrible tragedy. But Gonzales' testimony shouldn't be ignored. In fact the Chicago Tribune ran a long editorial about the testimony. With both Democrats and conservative Republicans assailing the Attorney General, it seems like only a matter of time before he is forced out.

Howard Kurtz, the brilliant media columnist for the Washington Post, discussed how the media covered the Gonzales testimony. (He links to Dahlia Lithwick, of Legal RPA seminar fame) The moral of the story is, even though the story got somewhat buried, Gonzales is in serious trouble.

Here in Chicago, there was an election this past week. I know some people might have missed it, and by the voter turnout numbers its pretty clear that a lot of Chicagoans missed it too. But the end result of Tuesday's runoff elections were that Mayor Daley suffered what could be a major setback.

His favored candidates including Shirley Coleman, Ted Matlak, Madeline Haithcock, Dorothy Tillman and Michael Chandler all lost. And the new aldermen say that change is on the way. That remains to be seen, especially here in Chicago where Daley always looms as larger than life.

But here's where the aldermanic story gets tricky. There was coverage, from the Tribune to television, it was certainly noted that Mayor Daley suffered a setback. But are the media outlets in this city prepared to hold the new aldermen accountable for their campaign promises?

When an overwhelming story such as the Virginia Tech tragedy strikes our country the media go into a single-minded mode. And for a case like this, I believe overwhelming coverage is justified. I just wonder at what point the media needs to start recognizing that other things are going on around the country. And especially the local media, at what point do local stories come back to the forefront?

4 Comments:

At Saturday, April 21, 2007, Blogger MK said...

There were a lot of things going on behind the VaTech curtain this week and they were easy to overlook. Other than hearing the Gonzalez testimony was going to be postponed on Mondy because of the shootings, I didn't hear much about it. The elections were a big story locally, but the context was necessary to understand why it was so important. One thing that I don't think has been discussed is Daley's future. A lot people may assume this is is his last term because he will set the record his father didn't attain for length of service. The IOC will decided Chicago's Olympic fate during this term, though, and if Chicago gets it, I've got to imagine Daley will try to hang on and win re-election twice more to rule over the summer games.

 
At Saturday, April 21, 2007, Blogger GN said...

I think this is another case where media folks milk the story for all it's worth, just as they did with Anna Nicole Smith, and then tell themselves that it's what the public wants.
I do believe VTech belongs on the front page, even for several days straight, but when the Tribune devoted pretty much the entire A section to it, and I believe it was a few days after the shootings, I did start to wonder whether it was a really slow news week.

 
At Sunday, April 22, 2007, Blogger L.C. said...

I too think it's interesting to think about the editorial decisions that are made during a tragedy of this proportion. I think it must be very difficult to decide, as news directors, when you need to break out of covering the tragedy and touch upon other events.

The delicate balance between covering the headline story and knowing when you can appropriately and sensitively break away from that story is a very difficult balance to achieve.

 
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