Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just the facts ...

Never Assume

I assume that I must have been given a check list of sorts when I was a student in college of things to do and things not to do in journalism. I assume that I must have made such a list and distributed it to journalism students when I was teaching in San Marcos at what was then Southwest Texas State. If I didn’t make the list and hand it out, I should have. Someday, I’ll sift through the box with all my syllabi, handouts, and lectures to find it. It would have to be a chilly day in the middle of winter to spend that much time in the attic. But, I assume that I prepared such a list.

It’s like a litany of “dos” and “don’ts” for kids in kindergarten. You know: Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t hit. Especially, don’t hit girls. Don’t bite. Do use your “inside voices”. Do wash your hands. I assume there a list for kids’ behavior, but I don’t remember getting one. I do, however, remember the rules, and they still apply.

This historic Tuesday, Election Night, all the anchors and reporters were doing their dead-level best to adhere to one of the rules on that list, “Never assume.” The networks had been burned before by exit polls. Assume nothing. “Overall, television struggled to avoid leaping to conclusions based on voluminous data. Anchors bit their tongues,” writes Joanne Ostrow, TV critic for the Denver Post. “It was another instance of TV knowing more than it was telling.” Maybe so, but it was an important time to employ the rule “Never assume”.

Even the campaigns were operating under the same rule. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” declared now vice-president-elect Joe Biden. Strangely, within the same hour McCain Senior Advisor Nicolle Wallace also exclaimed, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” One was cautious optimism. The other was holding out hope. But, it is safe to “never assume”.
Of course, all of this led to suspense followed by history in the making. (Is North Carolina still “too close to call”?) Never assume.

All of this on Election Night brought to mind an assumption I made, an assumption totally unrelated to the election. In an earlier post I talked about the November, 2008 sweeps and a battled of #1 anchor teams. I assumed that KVUE TV’s Tyler Sieswerda would be joined by new co-anchor Terri Gruca in time for the fray. I gave myself some wiggle-room when I wrote, “KVUE TV’s Tyler Sieswerda has been waiting for a new co-anchor. Terri Gruca should be settling in soon.” I didn’t say when, but I assumed it would be in time for sweeps.

Well, now the first week of sweeps is ending, Sieswerda is still flying solo at 6 and 10. Rats! So, I emailed friend Frank Volpicella, KVUE’s news director. “Terri Gruca starts on Dec 8th. However her first day on the air, will likely be Monday Dec 15th, Volpicella said.” Never assume.

Write it 500 times on the blackboard, “Never assume”.

Jim McNabb
© 2008

No comments: