Saturday, April 15, 2006

Dirty Laundry

An OSU football player was seriously injured at practice on Friday.

A short time later, OSU issued a brief statement saying in part that the player's family wished that he not be identified and that no details of his condition be made public.

Naturally, a few media outlets chose to ignore that.

This is one of the things I hate about the news business.

There's this ingrained mentality that you have to be first. Your readers/ listeners/ viewers need to know every little detail right now or they will see it somewhere else and never come back.

This is partly caused by the fact that pretty much all of the major traditional media outlets are seeing their audiences shrinking (because of the internet and other "new media") and are in something of a panic mode.

It's also caused by the fact that people in the news business deal with tragedies and other difficult situations like this one on a daily basis. After a while, it's only natural that it hardens you and you start losing some of what seems like common decency.

When a helicopter crashed up here a few days ago, killing a small-town police chief and a firefighter, the first question out of people's lips in the newsroom was "who can we talk to?" (Translation: Let's stick a camera in someone's face.)

The thinking goes something like "Sure, it's crappy but if we don't do it, the guys at the other station will and then they'll have the interview with a big 'EXCLUSIVE' banner on it and we'll look like we got beat and then we'll lose more viewers and then we'll lose more advertising revenue and then they'll fire my overpaid ass."

Viewers/readers are somewhat to blame as well-- many people are going to watch the hard-to-watch stuff like people crying about their losses, and in this case many people feel like they need to know the details.

You don't. And if you feel like you do, you're part of the problem, feeding the crazy-eyed monsters inside newsrooms.

Leave the family alone. They'll release the information when they're ready and frankly, they've got more important things to worry about than whether you know as much as you want to.

Incidentally, you can't say you don't like the shitty things media outlets do, and then support them by reading/ watching/ listening to their reports. It's like people who complain that TV stations make it sound like the end of the world when it's going to snow. The only reason they do that is every time they do surveys, people say weather is the #1 reason they watch TV, then they back it up by turning on the TV when there's a hint of snow.


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