Saturday, April 07, 2007

News outlets covering themselves - that's you, CNN and WGN

This week CNN had a shooting in its own building and Tribune Co. was bought by a Chicago real estate billionaire - leading two news outlets to look back at themselves for stories.

The CNN thing was pretty bad, I thought. I watched a bit of CNN and then clicked through a slideshow on their Web site to learn more. On TV two hosts interviewed one of their own correspondents - a young brunette woman - and she sounded so stupid. She seemed like a teenage girl who dramatizes everything when she gossips with her friends. I understand that she was on the show to tell what it was like for her to be in the building when the gunshots went off, but she gestured with her hands so much, was so annoying and made little or no mention of the real tragedy that I don't think I'll be able to forget this when I see her reporting next time. The slideshow was also melodramatic. It was some non-telling pictures with the somber voices of CNN employees (reporters) talking about what it was like for them - poor, poor, pitiful them. Very little was mentioned about the woman who was killed. It seemed like they tried to make a story about them and their firsthand experiences rather than the real tragedy. I think they should have just covered the shooting and its serious ramifications and left the CNN reporters' firsthand experiences up to my imagination, lest I lose respect for them (as I did).

The Tribune story has been covered most interestingly to me by our own Jon Weinstein. He got some time with a WGN radio host and a Trib business reporter for the Northwestern News Network. He asked what the acquisition by Zell would mean for their reporting. Most of the coverage by WGN and Chicago Tonight that I've seen has been about the employee stock ownership plan and other business/financial stuff. That's pretty sad. I'm not sure a station can accurately cover itself (without looking bad like CNN did to me) or if the story is too tough to cover because what reporter is going to honestly share his/her feelings with the media? But it's worth a shot like Jon took.

I think this crazy time at Medill is a real story. What's going on with our school? Are we going to lose broadcast clients in DC? Are our deans competent? Honest with us? Why is Jon Petrovich leaving? Why is a journalism school being led by a businessman? This is a story I would love to read. But I know I would never comment to a reporter on my dissatisfaction unless my name was not used. I'm sure everyone - students and faculty alike - would be the same way. A news outlet can't really cover itself well, and there's no way people inside would give outside media anything good.


At Saturday, April 07, 2007, Blogger L.C. said...

Covering one's own story seems both a blessing and a curse. You have more facts and inside sources than any other outlet could possible hope to have. You have a leg up on the competition because you will always be viewed as the expert (think Tribune vs. Sun-Times covering the Tribune sale).

At the same time, you somehow seem less reliable. It's nearly impossible to maintain a semblance of objectivity and viewers or readers realize they might be getting only one side of the story.

There's definitely a delicate balance to be had by managing to maintain the edge and expert position without sounding like a one-sided tell-all.


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