missing info in the local news

Brent Finnegan -- August 20th, 2007

It’s no secret that I have many issues with the way local news is frequently covered in this area. It amazes me how often key questions (where, who, what, when, how) are left unanswered. For example (as a commenter points out) WHSV’s “exclusive” story about the South Avenue shooting fails to mention that it took place on South Avenue (location noted in the headline of the DNR story).

So, I’m usually happy to see new sources of local news and info on the web. As of Friday, it appears WBOP/WSIG has started a news blog on Blogger — essentially giving them a free RSS feed — covering H’burg and Augusta Co. news (WSVA really needs to follow their lead on this). However, I was disappointed to read their top story today:

The Valley’s top gang-crime prosecutor says he has a 100-percent conviction rate on the crimes he’s prosecuted as a result of a year-old anti-gang effort… Many gang members are now less apt to show their colors and are downplaying their affiliation with gangs.

Who says that? What’s his name? How exactly does the initiative help him convict gangs? Where are the stats?

Sigh.

UPDATE: WBOP doesn’t actually blog at all. They hire non-local news “service” VirtualNewsCenter. VNC quotes Ken Barlow, Vox Communications COO, as saying, “We sought good sounding local news and an entry price that was reasonable. The cost of the service is very reasonable for the quality we recveive…in fact, a bargain!”

18 Responses to “missing info in the local news”

  1. cook says:

    finnegan

    The post to which you link is worth quoting here in its entirety:

    “The Valley’s top gang-crime prosecutor says he has a 100-percent conviction rate on the crimes he’s prosecuted as a result of a year-old anti-gang effort. Since the announcement last August of the formation of the multi-jurisdictional grand jury, part of a federally funded anti-gang initiative, more than 80 men, women and juveniles have been indicted and convicted on gun, drug, gang and other criminal charges, both in state and federal courts. It’s having an effect. Many gang members are now less apt to show their colors and are downplaying their affiliation with gangs.”

    I would be very interested in any data that would substantiate the factual claims in the post. In fact, I would be willing to bet a can of spray paint and a bandana (your choice of color) that the numbers quoted aren’t quite accurate.

  2. Del Marvel says:

    What bothers me about blogs usurping the traditional media is that there is even less accountability than before.

  3. kestrel9000 says:

    As what you see on that page is written to be read on the air, it will necessarily be a bit sketchy at times. Scott has to cover a fair amount of ground in a two-minute radio newscast.
    Anyway, finnegan, here’s what i think the source for that item is.

  4. Mary Lou Miller says:

    “It’s no secret that I have many issues with the way local news is frequently covered area.”

    If you are so critical of “traditional media,” perhaps you should also read your own copy before you post it.

  5. kestrel9000 says:

    Oooo. Somebody woke up with a case of the nasties today.

  6. Mary Lou Miller says:

    Oh I’m sorry, let me add this…. :)

  7. finnegan says:

    Kestrel, thanks for the link and additional info.

    Mary Lou, not only are your comments here almost always negative, they are also utterly useless and unconstructive. :) What copy are you even referring to? I never knowingly make a false statement here. If I get something wrong and am made aware of it, I always correct it.

    Del, technically that particular blog is run by a “traditional media” outlet — a mainstream radio station. I think your concern is a valid one. However, I look at it like this: blogs can also serve as watchdogs, and actually help hold traditional media accountable. I don’t know if you can classify sites like fair.org or MediaMatters.org as blogs, but that’s the whole purpose of those sites. The blog, talkingpointsmemo.com also does their fair share of meta-news reporting.

  8. Justin says:

    Wow. The commenter on the story was right. What an awfully written article.

    “When they looked out their back window, they saw flashing lights and police officers with guns drawn.”

    When they “looked out their back window”??

  9. DB says:

    The problem with WHSV’s reporting and their coverage in general isn’t a matter of intentional negligence. It’s a well known fact that HSV is a training ground with a revolving door. Reporters are generally right out of college (or still in college, as is the case with James Jackson). They come into their jobs knowing nothing and are offered no training whatsoever. By the time they make their mistakes and learn their lessons, it’s time to move on to a bigger city with better pay. I wish there was a simple answer for improving news coverage at that station, but there isn’t. And as for why they don’t answer the basic who, what, when, where and why in a story, I would blame that on the monster of time. They are given maybe 1:00 to tell a complete story. It can be done, but only with the right training.

  10. finnegan says:

    DB, I hear what you’re saying. I’ve shot, produced and/or reported news packages for air on TV, and for every one I’ve done I’ve realized I missed something after it was too late.

    Time is definitely the biggest factor. Also lugging all that equipment around. It’s much easier to walk into someone’s house or office with a notepad and a pen than it is to lug around a 20 pound camera, a light kit, an audio kit, and a tripod. Plus, if you’re writing a story as opposed to shooting/producing it, you can spend that little extra time before deadline actually writing the story, as opposed to running around, sweating, trying to shoot enough B-roll. Believe me, I know.

    These posts aren’t personal attacks on reporters (you’ll notice I generally only include a reporter’s name if I have something positive to say). I’m simply pointing out that there is room for improvement. Part of the problem is the system itself. TV news has developed into the fast food of information. There’s just no way you can glean the same amount or quality of info from a 2-minute package that you can from spending 10 – 20 minutes reading a feature story in Mother Jones. And commercial breaks have left no room for information digestion.

    TV news departed from Ed Murrow’s news magazine format a very long time ago — just look at the average age of the 60 Minutes reporters. It isn’t (and may never have been) what it could be.

  11. Karl Magenhofer says:

    “TV news has developed into the fast food of information. There’s just no way you can glean the same amount or quality of info from a 2-minute package that you can from spending 10 – 20 minutes reading a feature story in Mother Jones.”

    It’s a catch 22. How many stories did Mother Jones ignore because it spent so much time and resources on that feature story? You have to decide which is better, to be really informed on one story or to have basic facts about many. Additionally, it’s not fair to compare TV to print.

    You’ll never treat the disease at this point, so you’re forced to deal with the symptoms of the “fast food of information.” BTW, great anology. Take the limited info the news outlets give you and if you want more usually it’s only a few mouse clicks away. It’s not ideal, but at least you heard about it. It’s a lot like this blog, someone will throw something out there and after a few phone calls or a search of the web, you have the full story.

  12. Mary Lou Miller says:

    The copy I’m referring to is the first line of your post. I believe you are missing an “in the”. I’m just saying when you talk about cutting corners and bad writing, you should look at your own copy first. That’s not negative, it’s just a fact.

    “It’s no secret that I have many issues with the way local news is frequently covered (in the )area.”

  13. finnegan says:

    Corrected.

    Like I said, as I’m made aware of mistakes, I correct them. In lieu of having an overarching editor, there are now five other bloggers here that have the ability to edit posts, comments, and correct typos (Thanh, Gxeremio, Josh, TM, and JGFitzgerald). It looks like none of us caught that one.

  14. Dave Briggman says:

    Here’s a great sentence from a current WHSV story (the URL is http://www.whsv.com/home/headlines/9314101.html ):

    The story is about a spelling error on the VT Hokie memorial where WHSV writes:

    “The last name of French teacher Jocelyne Couture-Nowak was mistakenly carved into a memorial stone.”

    What? It was a mistake to put the woman’s last name in her memorial?

  15. David Miller says:

    Favorite DNR quote of the day
    “But there are two main reasons, Mr. Rector notes, why significant number of American children are poor – their parents don’t work much and their fathers are absent from the home. Sadly, nearly two-thirds of poor children reside in single-parent homes.

    This is unfortunate, but neither of those conditions can be improved by government programs.”

    Wow, If only those lazy poor people would get off their asses and work a little harder.

  16. kai says:

    Hey finnegan – I can edit, too. Not sure if you want me to, but it helps since I frequently mispsell. By the way:

    Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

  17. David Miller says:

    Not bad, I dndi’t konw taht

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