Nov 10, 2010

Why news sucks... Bloggers trying to fill the News Vacuum

Before reading MY story, please read MO RAGE's on what use are bloggers in today's news environment.

I was, at one time, intimately involved in newsgathering for I was at one time or another, an investigative reporter, an assignment editor, and a beat reporter on most major city beats - industry, education, medicine, business, utilities.

I've reported on things news operations simply don't report on.  In part, the times are different.

No Cameras!  Reporters Keep Out.

Governments and private enterprise have learned how to shut out the media.  Today, they often hide behind newer privacy laws.  Hippa for medicical industry and general privacy to keep the media out of schools and safely away from both the children and those who are responsible for them while their parents are off working.

For TV, there was less emphasis on nightly ratings... and instead of "if it bleeds, it leads", stations had beat reporters to cover the segments of society, assuming people would sit through a great story only some people are vastly more interested in.

They don't do that anymore.  It's too expensive, having six beat reporters and especially in a city where there are two state governments and 2-3 dozen city governments... and all the school districts.

  • For example.  Do a story on how schools HAVE to serve nutritional meals in Blue Springs.  Will SM or Lees Summit households watch them?  Will the schools even let them a cameraman in without a PR escort "minding" them like a North Korean soldier, so not to make the schools look bad?
  • Do schools now say you can't shoot any video of a pupil without a parental permission slip?  If so, you can forget about showing kid after kid throwing away virtually ALL of their lunches in the trash barrel.

  • Or overweight kids choosing only the free breakfast biscuits and gravy.   Or rambunxious kids wandering the halls when they should be in class.  Or kids more interested in drugs and sexting than turning in their homework.  (How much home work actually IS there?)

  • Or at a hospital, get some bills and some doctors together and see how many tests and services costing $1-5,000 that really aren't needed... but are part of the profit center for doctors and hospitals?  How many times have you had an X ray at your doctors office and theys hoot another one just like it at the hospital.  Only more like six of them, plus an MRI?   Those big machines are expensive so hospitals need to keep them busy, whether most patients need them or not.)
  • How much do you want to pay for a nice hospital employee cafeteria...hidden in your insurance premiums, which your insurance company pays.... though they won't pay for tests YOUR DOCTOR wants.  (Because it's not in their 'book' of acceptable charges for your "Diagnosis")    This is why there's supposed to be Obama-care but nobody sold it right.  How much DO you pay a month for insurance?
  • Or quiet layoffs at one big company after another, maybe by opening an overseas plant or just cutting jobs.
  • Or price fixing on the part of milk suppliers at all the grocery stores?
  • Or the high number of consumer complaints to "Call for Action" TV station hotlines about car dealers which make their money up-selling unneeded repair services?   TV stations just don't do hit pieces on their big advertisers!  So in those cases, they won't even run locally filed lawsuits against them!

Yes, things have changed.

Stations and papers, and even bloggers don't have good sources for they're understaffed.  And whistle blowing employees know they'd be fired if anyone found out they were feeding reporters INtel that was bad for business.

And for TV, if they can't get pretty pictures, well it may cost us all millions, but it's not a 'suitable television story'.  Money stories, the ones most important, are the ones we need to know.  But TV is satisfied shooting police cars outside drug murders at 31st and Prospect.  They can SELL commercials for that stuff.

Fact is, unless somebody files charges down at the courthouse... and the Associated Press covers it, nobody's going to know about it, much less run it.  And bloggers, especially one man band bloggers can't possibly cover news... hence we mostly just steal last night's stories from TV newscasts.

Who's screwing whom at city hall?  

Well let's just remember while the TV networks were talking about stains on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress, Arab men were learning how to fly jetliners into buildings.  (Lesson shoulda been learned:  Govt people should mind the peoples business, not be distracted by the supermarket sabloids and dirt for the next election.)

I remember what CNN was running on the evening of Sept 10, 1991.  It was yet more speculation on whether some Congressman was screwing missing intern Sandra Levy.  Story disappeared at 8am Eastern the next morning!

Didn't resurface until someone arrested her killer, who was NOT a government politician.

Much more on this topic from my essay which was at one time a must read for broadcast journalism students... years ago.  But little has changed, alas.   TV News: What Local Stations don't Want you to Know. 

News is in a transition.  I'm sure the internet will have a lot to do with that transition.  And remember, journalists don't dig up news for FREE.  Like you, they have families to feed!

Rman wrote this originally as a Comment to MoRage, who was talking about it.  Go over THERE to discuss, it's his story!

No comments: