Thursday, January 29, 2009

Looking for an Edge

Why Does All the Media Look Alike?

Where does the local “news” come from? Does it come from the police scanner? Does it come from a story in some other media? Is it a national news story localized? Is it a page or email from the police department? Is it a news release from a public information officer or a public relations flack? Or, does it come from curiosity perhaps pricked by one of the above sources or, even better, elsewhere? In other words is it an “enterprise” story? If it is an enterprise story, does a TV station sit on it and save it for sweeps only to be swept by another TV station doing it first?


The answer for a given medium may be all of the above.

Viewers and readers complain that all of the stations and media “look alike”. They have the same stories. Sometimes, the TV stations coincidentally stack the same stories in the same order. The stations were all listening to the same scanners, getting the same news releases, receiving the same pages and emails, and acting on them in the same way. You know what that says to me? There is not much enterprise going on here. So-called enterprise stories are saved for contest days or sweeps. No wonder many users/consumers/viewers/listeners/readers think the media is all part of a conspiracy, or they all work for the government. No wonder they perceive what they see is biased. The audience thinks that they’re being fed the party line, whatever the party is, and the “real news” is on the Internet, in blogs, or, perhaps, on AM talk radio.
I’ve been watching. Particularly, on what may be termed “slow” news days, the stations do often all look the same. There are the same “spot news” stories (fires, fatalities, and homicides), news conferences, and (particularly if it is a weekend) fluff news events.

Some Austin TV reporters also seem to end up doing the same type stories all of the time, not because the stories may be on their “beat”, if they have one, but because these reporters are the type who hang around the newsroom waiting for something to happen. More often than not, it is these reporters who get the late-breaking stories. Why? Because they are good reporters? No, not necessarily. It’s really because they are lazy or lack curiosity and creativity. The aggressive reporters who came to work with a cool idea are long ago out the door leaving the lazy reporters at their desks, on the phone, or surfing the net. The reporters who remain are the reporters who are available. Therefore, the assignments desk sends them.

Besides, “spot news” stories are easy. Everything is right in front of them. Get the video and a few bites, and you’re done. If it’s a news release-generated story, the lack of challenge may be much the same. The news notice is about a late afternoon news conference. Great! Show up. Get the sound. Maybe the Public Information Officer or PR person has a “throw-down” interview opportunity with a “real” person. Get a few cutaways and some “b-roll” and you’re done. No sweat.

Why not be that person? Somebody’s needs to be that person, right?

No, not really. Not in this day of layoffs and cutbacks. That person who is just hanging around may also be viewed by management as “dead wood” that can be sawed off with a minimum of mess.

News managers nowadays may choose to ask the aggressive reporter to hold that enterprise story until tomorrow and cover the breaking news. Or, the story may be “busted down” to a VO/SOT, or just a few column-inches or a cutline on a photo, and the creative reporter gets the plum, late-breaking package or front page piece. Why? Because the news manager knows that this reporter will be looking for an edge—some different to set the story apart from the competition.

The goal of the news manager is to have the best people doing the right stories. Most of the time the curious, aggressive, energetic reporter will get to stay on the story. Further, it’s not just a slogan: Every day is contest day, and every day is sweeps. You don’t just do good stories four months out of the year and maintain or build an audience.

Just as important, it rewards those good journalists. It keeps them happy and satisfied with their very unusual jobs. It cuts down on the cliques and complaining in the newsrooms.

Most important: It puts the best product before the viewing or reading public. On those days, everyone leaves the newsroom tired, but happy—satisfied. Those are the days that stick in my mind. Good memories of good stories done well.

Meanwhile, the lazy reporter is putting together a portfolio, resume tape, or DVD, knowing it won’t be long before moving on.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

News From Nowhere

Premise: Reporters are Lazy (Ouch!)

The journalism think-tank Poynter Institute (
www.poynter.org) often causes me to stop and think about the state of the news business. Sometimes, they their reach is beyond their grasp, but that’s the job of a “think tank”, I guess.

Amy Gahran posted a piece this afternoon positing that a linear approach to following a story in the media, following the events day after day, results in little depth or understanding. The stories assume the past and present only the present, providing only snapshots and little context. At least, that’s the sense I made of it. She was grappling with a post by a colleague Matt Thompson. Find it at:
http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=157472

Well, I wrapped the cloak of “journalistic priesthood” around me and replied with a comment. Poynter’s comments section only allows for a set number of characters, so I had to edit myself with a dull knife. Not wanting all of my words to go to waste, I’m posting them on my own blog where I can use all the characters that I want!

My full comment:

Yes, the media continually change, but this phenomenon is not new. I stared at my bookshelf and pulled down an “old” one with pages tanned with age, “News From Nowhere” by Edward Jay Epstein, ©1973. He wrote:

“More than fifty years ago Walter Lippmann suggested that newspaper reporting was in large part a process of filling out an established ‘repertory of stereotypes’ with current news. In a similar way, network news is involved with illustrating a limited repertory of story lines with appropriate pictures. One NBC commentator, Sander Vanocur, observed that ‘network news is a continuous loop: There are only a limited number of plots—“’Black Versus White,’” “’War is Hell,’” “’America is Falling Apart,’” “’Man Against the Elements,’” “’The Generation Gap’”, etc. which we seem to be constantly redoing with different casts of characters.”

Why does this seem so both at the local and national level?

Over lunch recently with two former colleagues, seasoned journalists who now work in PR, we agreed: Reporters are lazy. I’m going to post a blog on the role of public relations and public information officers in the news-gathering process. If PR people and PIOs are doing their job, they spoon feed the harried media who are trying to do more with less during this day and age. Their goal is to make covering the story at hand easy with just enough background and the right interviewees giving tidy, but meaningless :15-second sound bites.

The result is a product that fits a formula, also talked about in Chapter 4 of “News From Nowhere”. The reporters, always on deadline, do not have time for reflection and context. Perhaps their editors or producers ax it out, for lack of space and time. No wonder audiences and subscriptions are down.

The only answers include the Internet where ostensibly one can hear the context of the sound bite, programs with extended interview including opposing views such as PBS or some cable programs, or (gasp) books.

I am not ready to give up on traditional media and their web sites to live in the existential moment. We are evolving to a new model which will, most likely give way to something else. In the mean time, reporters must rage against the temptation to be lazy. News managers must allow elbow room for context and creativity.

© Jim McNabb, Austin, TX

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Banned Words or Phrases

Heard and/or Read Within the Past Week in Central Texas

I keep getting suggestions for more “banned words or phrases”. I write them down various places. I may include them. I may have lost some. But, this past week has been a dam-breaker. All of the wrong usages, clich├ęs, and other language atrocities burst forth. Maybe it was because there was so much live broadcasting and speaking and writing before thinking this past seven days. It is like a sign that was given to me as a kid saying something like, “Warning: Engage Brain Before Operating Mouth”.


So, here is yet another list of “Banned Words or Phrases Along with Other Atrocities”:

> Austin’s City Manager Marc A. Ott uttered one of my pet peeves: "Reoccur." I’m sorry Mr. Manager, the word is "recur." Look it up. Geez.

> NBC main anchor Brian Williams nailed another peeve like hitting a sore thumb again and again, hour after hour. He repeatedly referred to the big domed building where Congress meets as “the capitol building”. No, Mr. Williams who makes big bucks for saying things to millions. It is simply the “capitol”. The capitol IS a building. What you said is redundant. Look it up. Geez.

> Another news reporter referred to the lost U.S. Air jet engine as “completely submerged”. Well, submerged means covered. It means underwater. So, the above phrase is also redundant. Look it up. Geez.

> Rachel Maddow and many, many other reporters referred to one of the passengers on Flight 1549 as having suffered “two broken legs.” Geez. How many other legs did she have? Or did she break legs belonging to someone else?

> MSNBC Anchor/Satirist Keith Olbermann reporting the same story said “…the aircraft suffered…” No. I’ve covered this before. Living things suffer. People on board U.S. Air flight 1549 suffered, but the aircraft did not. It was damaged.

> Same story on Fox news, another blown usage: The aircraft was moored “so that it doesn’t drift further …” No. Sorry. You meant to say “farther” meaning distance. Two local weather anchors used “further” instead of “farther” this week too. We’ve been here before too. Look it up. Geez.

> A local fill-in anchor repeatedly referred to Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel, using something like a French pronunciation of his last name. Instead of eh-HOO-D OH-L-mehrt (Source: Voice of America), the last name was pronounced on the air Ohl-MER. I’m sure Prime Minister Olmert wasn’t listening, but it doesn’t help credibility.

The next ones on my list are oldies but baddies, and they were uttered this weekend in various contexts:

> Future plans. Now, I know. This is a gray area. Both of these words are perfectly fine found alone or combined with other adjectives. They communicate. But, combined, it is my contention that this phrase is redundant. Yeah, I know …

> Over crowded. The “American Heritage Dictionary” accepts this usage. But, in my mind, if something is crowded already, how can it be overcrowded? Yeah, I know…

> Stable condition. My former colleague Shane Dietert is now managing editor of the Fox station in Little Rock. He writes that one of his reporters wrote that “a shooting victim was in stable condition. I have spent three days trying to explain to him that stable isn't a condition—the person is in critical condition but stable.” I suppose somebody can have stable vital signs, but not have a definite condition. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or “HIPAA” also comes into play protecting privacy. But, there you go, Shane.

And finally, we went to a commercial break. It was a used car advertisement, but these we’re just ordinary used cars and trucks, the announcer said. “These are ‘certified’ used cars and trucks!” Yep. They’re used alright. I wonder what government agency certifies used cars and trucks. Maybe the new administration will abolish it.

Once again, I invite your words and phrases. I also invite creativity—Make sentences using them all!

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Caution: Commentary Coming

Journalistic Freedom

Freedom! Exhilaration! Effervescence! Ever-loving freedom. That’s what I feel tonight while watching reports from the mall in Washington D.C. on the eve of the inauguration of a new President of the United States, Barack Obama. Does that marvelous feeling of freedom mar a journalist’s image of objectivity? Does expressing joy in that freedom reveal latent bias? Actually, I don’t think so. I don’t think loving freedom is a journalistic or partisan issue.

I’ll say it: For more than the past decade, most of which while I was a working journalist, I’ve been bummed by what I’ve seen and heard from this outgoing administration in Washington. I kept it to myself when George W. Bush was governor, but I said to friends, “He couldn’t run a baseball team, I don’t think he can run a state.” Then, eight years ago, Mr. Bush somehow became President. For the first four years of the administration, I was, well, angry. When the country somehow re-elected him, I decided to let it go.

As a working journalist, I had a professional responsibility to be unbiased and balanced in my coverage decisions. It was work, but that’s OK. It’s part of the job.

The Poynter Institute is a professional journalism think-tank and training center. I don’t know if it was coincidence or in concert, but today two writers at Poynter produced pieces on similar issues. One summed it up: “Journalists’ Facebook Pages Reveal Struggle with Neutrality, Free Speech”. The other suggests guidelines for journalists using Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

The former, posted by Steve Myers, did an admittedly nonscientific assessment of journalists’ Facebook Pages. “What I found was a disconnect between what these journalists said and what they did. Most agreed that journalists should accept some limitation on free speech so they don’t undermine their position as fair brokers of information,” Myers writes. But, what they posted online was a different matter. While they wouldn’t put a candidate’s sign in their yard, they might express themselves more freely online, even if they attempted to restrict access.

Well, he’s right. When I was in “The Business”, I was circumspect. No signs in the yard; no bumper stickers on the truck.

By 2001 I needed an outlet. I began to pour my feelings about the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and the so-called Patriot Act into songs. A visitor to my music web site might not detect what I just wrote unless they played the right portions of the right song clips on iTunes, Mytexasmusic.com, or cdbaby.com. I was like two persons. At the TV station it was all business. At home I was myself. While working at my last station, I peeled off the candidate bumper sticker, but I left the “peace sign”. That peace sign was part of me.

You see, I was in high school and college in the 1960s, graduating from undergraduate school in 1969. I also started doing broadcast news in the late ‘60s. But to borrow a phrase, you can take the boy out of the ‘60s, but you can’t take the ‘60s out of the boy. I was in high school in Dallas when President Kennedy died there. I was in college when Martin Luther King, Junior and Bob Kennedy were also assassinated. I was radicalized and galvanized in 1968 before I started doing TV news in 1969. How do you purge those memories fraught with meaning? Should I forget the “dream”? Should I blot out, “Some see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” I think not. These memories, these experiences made me who I am today for good or ill. But, I cannot and should not suppress pure joy with this year’s turn of political events.

I envy Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and brave, mainly print columnists who speak plainly about the damage done by the departing administration. Olbermann and especially Maddow should be considered “journalists” even though they are free with their opinions. Why? You know when they are poking fun and when they aren’t. Their reporting is factual. They tell the truth, even if some people don’t like it. Stories they report are on the front page or network TV news the next day.

For local journalists, however, there are few, if any, ways of doing what they do, unless they do what I did—retire!!! Now, because I have a blog, I tell you about freedom. We have “freedom of the press” in this country, true enough. But, for the individuals who make up the press, they give up some of their freedom for the sake of the profession. I had a news director once who refused to vote in the primary elections because he would have to commit to a party. I’ll be honest. I never, ever gave up my vote.

Now, I don’t have to worry whether someone might challenge me. So, just like on the night when Barack Obama accepted his party’s nomination for President of the United States, I’ll watch his inauguration with tears of joy. It’s a darned good thing I don’t have to cover the event.

By the way, my song “Yes We Can”, is playing on my web site www.mcnabbsongs.com.

© Jim McNabb, January 19, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

They'll Always Bite You ...

Absolutes and Superlatives

I learned it, I know it, but I briefly abandoned it in this new medium, this blog. Blogs cross many lines. Many blogs don’t tell the truth or the whole truth. Many blogs have an agenda or, yes, a bias. But, when one is writing a blog about Journalism, the old tenants of the professional of Journalism must still stand.

I knew I had a reference. I went through my old style books, but they bore no fruit. Then, I found the basic book from which I taught Journalism in the early ‘80s, "The Complete Reporter", by Harriss, Leiter and Johnson. Quoting from the Third Edition (1977) [The pages are now tanned with age, but it’s still true.], Page 38, “Superlatives are usually inaccurate.”

That’s it.

Earlier this week, in a rather benign blog about broadcast weather reporting in the Austin area, I used a superlative, an absolute. The simple sentence above, “Superlatives are usually inaccurate,” shot down the supposition that I made without a total grasp of the facts. I declared, that one station “dominates Nielsen ratings whenever there is news-worthy weather. It’s been that way for years.”

It takes just one instance, although there may be many, to shoot that assertion full of holes. Frank Volpicella, news director at KVUE, was quick at the keyboard.

“Not always,” Volpicella says. “And certainly not last May when storms rumbled through Austin. On Wednesday evening May 14, we have several tornado warnings in Austin. Fortunately, nothing touched down. There was some damage in Austin, mostly in the Tarrytown neighborhood. I’m sure you remember the night.”

As a matter of fact, I do remember that night. We lost a beautiful Spanish Oak in our front yard that night, but we’re not in Tarrytown. We’re in South Austin.

“That night I made the call,” Volpicella continues. “KVUE preempted ABC prime and went on from 9 p.m. until after the 10 p.m. news was over.” Volpicella goes on to cite Nielsen ratings from that night showing that KVUE’s coverage was #1 in both the 9 and 10 o’clock hours. You can’t argue with the facts. More, importantly for this blog, however, is another lesson re-learned: “Superlatives are usually inaccurate.”

The other arguable point of the blog, however, is whether a meteorology degree and accreditation by a weather association, such as the American Meteorological Association and/or the National Weather Association really matter. One of KVUE’s early and strongest meteorologists, Troy Kimmel, while holding a Texas A&M degree in geography with emphasis in meteorology and several seals, sees seals only as a symbol of “being the best we could be.”

I pointed out in the blog that KVUE embraces those standards, and they still do. “I will always believe that the more educated and skilled the meteorologist, the better he or she will be at their jobs,” Volpicella says. “Certainly, experience is important. But I’ll hire someone with a degree in atmospheric sciences over someone with a degree in philosophy to forecast our weather. The issue becomes, do you want a personality forecasting your weather, or a trained specialist?”

I assert that it is even better to have a trained specialist who is also a personality or communicator. There, Volpicella and I reach common ground. “Communicating is important. But so is expertise,” he says.

My parting thought to my friend Frank: It’s “[It's]… sad that we have to go back to mid-May last year to find any significant weather. Man, I wish it would rain.”

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seals? I Don't Need No Stinkin' Seal!


Does Your Favorite Weather Broadcaster Have What It Takes?

Storm clouds are stirring on the horizon! A frigid over-running condition could contribute to dangerous black ice on area roadways! A “rain-bomb” dumps eight-inches in the Shoal Creek Watershed! An F-4 tornado is on the ground!


What weather source will you punch up to find the facts about our ever-changing weather in Austin? Why did you pick that channel? Does it matter whether your favorite source has some sort of seal of approval from some national association? OK. Which seal is the “good” seal? Or do you think, I’ll just go to the Internet for all of my weather fact-finding now?

Here are the facts:

> Jim Spencer at KXAN dominates Nielson ratings whenever there is news-worthy weather. It’s been that way for years.
> Meantime, “Best Weather” awards from the Texas Associated Press have been scattered among all of the local stations over the years. For 2007-08 (First place went to KTBC and second place and honorable mention went to KVUE, with main meteorologist Mark Murray getting the “Honorable Mention”.) [These awards are totally subjective with judges in different states every year. You never know what might make a judge smile. That’s why awards mean little.]

> The TV station that has always emphasized American Meteorological Society Seals for its weather staff is KVUE. Both Mark Murray and Meghan Danahey have degrees and seals of approval from both the American Meteorological Association and the National Weather Association. A KVUE promotional spots proclaims, “Only KVUE has Austin’s all certified meteorologists. KVUE—Austin’s weather authority.”

> Other Austin weather sources also have apparent strong emphases on education and seals of approval—News 8 with the most meteorolgists in town, many with strong degrees and seals and KEYE where Susan Vessell has her AMS seal and Megan Campbell holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in weather.

> KXAN has never emphasized seals; it seems to be left up to the individuals on the staff.

What matters? Go back to my first fact. Jim Spencer and KXAN win the weather ratings. Have you ever wondered why KXAN’s weather is so deep in the newscast with a couple of weather snippets earlier in the show? KXAN is trying to carry the audience into the second quarter hour of the newscast, knowing that people will hang around for the weather.

“Jim Spencer has forgotten more about weather than most others have learned,” says former Austin meteorologist Laura Skirde. Skirde holds seals from both the National Weather Association and the American Meteorological Association. TV weather is as much to do with communicating as it is the science and mathematics of meteorology. Spencer, himself, agrees. “It’s kind of funny actually—seems like those with B.S. degrees in meteorology (essentially a math degree) feel threatened by “broadcast” mets [meteorologists], who get to skip the higher level math—and are often MUCH better at telling the weather story, not to mention often better forecasters too.”

A little background may be needed here. Several of the people doing TV weather in Austin got their credentials from a Mississippi State University curriculum created with the assistance of one of the certification associations, the Nation Weather Association (NWA) in 1986. Using distance learning, students take 17 courses or 52 credit hours for a certificate in broadcast meteorology. Those hours can also lead to a degree. More than 1,200 students have gone through the program. Now, there is also a continuing education program.

Also, as of January 1, 2009 the American Meteorological Society is no longer issuing AMS seals to broadcasters. Now, they will be awarded something called “Certified Broadcast Meteorologists” and get a CBM seal. Of course, those who have the AMS seal can keep theirs. Troy Kimmel, meteorologist for Clear Channel Radio in Austin, a teacher at The University of Texas, and a former TV weatherman, was one of the prime movers in the new CBM certification program. Kimmel, a San Marcos native, majored in meteorology at Texas A&M. The AMS certification was based on a degree and demonstrated experience in forecasting on the air. Once granted, there is a continuing education requirement. Kimmel holds AMS, CBM, and NWA seals.
“Personally I can tell you it had a lot more to do with the necessary requirement for continuing ed and to insure meteorological knowledge,” Kimmel says. Kimmel adds that the test for the CBM is hard. “It was tough,” he says.
Do the professional seals really matter? “I really don't think it is so much a battle of the seals as much as trying to be the best we could be,” Kimmel says. While Jim Spencer pursues continuing education like others in the craft, as noted earlier, some sort of seal means little. “The research shows people watching at home couldn’t care less about a seal.”

Bottom lines: Can your weather broadcaster communicate? Further, can your weather broadcasters effectively use the high tech toys now in most of the TV stations? Is the TV station’s weather graphics strong, and do they also communicate? More importantly, can the weather broadcaster use these powerful tools under pressure when all hell breaks out?

By my count there are some 20 TV weather broadcasters on the air in Austin right now. Their talents and skills in all of the above areas vary widely. I have to say it: It’s not because I worked with him. I’ve worked with several and enjoy watching many. Jim Spencer is the best. He knows his weather. Further, he knows Austin weather. There is a difference.

[By the way, judging maps and weather graphics on a scale of 1-10, I score KVUE-5, KTBC-6, KEYE-7, and KXAN-8. But sometimes it depends on the person using them. Some may not make full use of the palette.]

[One other postscript: What gives me the right to make these judgments? I suppose anybody has the right and should make these judgments. But, shoot, I was the #1 weather REPORTER (Not meteorologist) in Austin in the early ‘70s on KTBC. I have the paper weather maps of my last broadcast to prove it! See the above photo. Plus, I'm a weather geek.]

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Make Them Stop!!!

One-Source Stories

I’ve been chewing on this one for a few weeks, or it has been chewing on me. I wondered how I should approach this. Should I call or email a news director and simply tell what I saw? Should I let it slide? Or, should I post it here and let the chips fall. Obviously, I decided to post it here. Will there be chips?

I don’t know if it is a facet of “doing more with less” [Please see an earlier post.], or the lack of sources and resources during the holidays, or worse—laziness, but I’m seeing a disturbing trend: One-source “packaged” news stories on the air.

In the television news industry, a “package” is a story with a reporter’s voice track , often with a “stand up” or “bridge” inside when the reporter appears on camera. The standup or bridge will accomplish one or more of several things. It gives the reporter presence at a scene; it allows the reporter to explain something for which there is no video; or as a bridge it can create transition. But a package—any story for that matter—should be balanced and fair. Right? A story using only one source is thin on content at best.

The only packages that might work with one source would be “spot” news (especially live shots), profiles, or features. Certainly, when reporters roll up on a raging fire just before a newscast, one quick interview covering the basics of the breaking news may be all that is available before going live. Even features and profiles are often better with more than one source. Most other stories always need balance. Even saying, “We attempted to reach Mr. Blah-Blah-Blah, but were unsuccessful” can help.

What set me off were two stories that I saw recently on the same station, minutes apart. They were one-source stories. They were one-sided. They left questions in my mind. A reporter never wants to leave questions about their stories in the minds of the viewers. A viewer, in fact, may lock onto that story and miss the rest of the newscast if they are musing over the one-source story and not paying attention.
One of the stories that kindled my consternation contained opinions from Jim Harrington, Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. You can be sure that almost any story using Mr. Harrington as a source probably has some controversy attached to it. Yet, the story was the gospel according to Mr. Harrington; no other sides were presented. The reporter even seemed to buy into Mr. Harrington’s point of view, judging from her delivery. I was disturbed. The other one-source, one-sided story was much lighter, but it screamed for balance. The reporter could have said something in the tag at the very least. Nope.

Responsibility here doesn’t rest only with the reporter. With the exception of live, breaking news, all scripts should be cleared by the show producer. More often than not, an executive producer and/or the news director will also read the story before it is edited and aired. For print, editors do the same things before approving a story for publication. There is plenty of blame to go around.

Let me emphasize: Yes, I’m focusing on these two stories because they aired almost back-to-back on the same station. It, however, seems to be a trend, and other newsrooms also seem satisfied with such so-called journalism. That’s what alarms me. It should alarm all viewers/users/consumers of local news too. Red flags should go up. Whistles and sirens should sound. None of us should be satisfied with one-source stories and let the media skate. We deserve better, and we should demand it. This is not rocket science. This is basic journalism with a “Big J.”

Media is constantly castigated for being biased in its reporting. I’d be curious if anyone has complained about one-source stories. It may not be bias, but it certainly leaves that impression. We all know that facts may not matter, impressions do matter, especially if those impressions re-enforce a reader/listener/viewer/user/consumer’s pre-existing notion of the truth.

Readers/listeners/viewers/consumers/users have agency. I encourage, I urge all to use it. One way stations learn of an audience’s feelings is when enough audience members pick up the remote and change channels or cancel subscriptions. However, without research, a medium may be at a loss to know why their ratings are down. As a believer in traditional, local news media, I don’t advocate this kind of feedback.

All media now claim to want feedback, and they make it possible through their web sites. If a medium gets enough credible negative (or positive) reaction to specific stories, there is a real potential for positive change and growth. Sometimes, it only takes only one thought-provoking, detailed email.


© Jim McNabb
2009