2006.11.02

Live on the scene.

00.32.45 - Mark

I've been checking in on the Eastern Guilford High School fire by flipping onto the local news stations this afternoon. Unquestionably its a serious problem that the school will have to deal with over the next few months, and in all likelyhood - years.

I'm not going to try and compare this to any thing I've ever seen, heard, or experianced, as it would be stupid and wouldn't end well (I've never figured out the whole school pride thing), but I'm deeply interested in the news coverage as the events unfolded.

I first heard about it after fliping on the TV this afternoon and catching a sound bite from the local Fox station. It hooked me pretty quickly (what red blooded American isn't grossly infactuated with live disaster stories?) and I sat around watching it for a few minutes.

I don't expect great production values from the local TV stations, and would probably go nuts trying to engineer live TV, but the first thing that struk me is that there was a lot of fluff. Anchors talking about observations from a staging area hundreds of feet from the activity. My timing was fairly good as it didn't take long for the on-the-scene crew to start finding people to talk to from firefighters and parents, but the questions, again were weak.

An on camera interview with a parent picking up her children started with "First of all, what does it smell like?" Of all the even slightly relevent questions to ask a parent of a student whose school is on fire, "What does it smell like" ranks up there with "What does smoke look like?" and "Is fire hot?" as bad questions.

I turned it off shortly afterwards, but checking back later on I didn't hear many good questions. I understand its live TV, events are happening in real time, and new viewers are turning in constantly but news is supposed to be new. I'd like a little more than "Just the facts' mam.". It reminds me a lot of the 9/11/01 news coverage, when I spent most of the day watching a looping videos of a plane crash I saw live.

I suppose the point I want to reach is, is if media, new, old or a hybrid, is really capable of reporting news in real time?

Old media is good at getting a couple of basic facts out to the masses quickly, but is often little more than "something happened - fluff story at 11" while new media is huge ammounts of information distributed acorss hundreds of human filters before good stuff comes to the surface. The hybrids, so far I haven't seen much more than a thank you for reporting this story.

I'll admit that this isn't my typical beat, but it is something to think about (if any of this post makes as much sense as I hope it does).

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