Friday, June 20, 2008

WHAT JOURNALISM CAN LEARN FROM THE RUSSERT DEATH COVERAGE

Hal Boedeker in the Orlando Sentinel

1. Don't lose perspective. On Friday, "NBC Nightly News" devoted its entire half-hour to Russert. The network ignored all the other news in the world. I thought Brian Williams would say, "Tim would want us to move to the news of the day." Williams never did. That was a prelude to the days upon days coverage of Russert coverage on MSNBC.. . .

2. Journalists should remember it's not about them. NBC has a bad habit of turning the news into a family album. The Russert coverage was the worst example yet. We, the journalists, are not the news. If we can't keep perspective about ourselves, how can you trust us when we turn to other topics?

3. If you can't hold it together, perhaps you shouldn't go on the air. Chris Matthews actually seemed dazed on Wednesday's "Hardball." And he offered this bizarre comment: "Do you think it's an odd coincidence that ever since the bad news came Friday from the studio in Nebraska -- we all heard about it in our own worlds -- that nothing else seems to have happened. It just seems to have been a moment of -- almost a moment of silence, politically for this to be marked, this tragedy."

Actually, quite a lot has happened in that time: flooding in the Midwest, a deadly bombing in Baghdad, fighting in Afghanistan, the possibility of peace talks in the Mid East, talk of oil drilling off the U.S. coast. That last story could become the biggest this year in Florida. All those stories have political repercussions. NBC, however, was too busy being self-referential and self-reverential.

4. The coverage confirmed some viewers' fears that the links between official Washington and the Washington press corps are too incestuous. As it is, too much coverage is inside the Beltway, too focused on strategy rather than issues. . .

5. The coverage was too mushy. The folks at MSNBC are never reluctant to take on problems they see in the Bush White House or Hillary Clinton's concluded campaign or "the worst people in the world." But they turned woozy in discussing one of their own. . .

6. Your coverage will invite discussion about how news decisions are made. . . The coverge of Russert has crossed the line from egregious news misjudgment to outright merchandising of his death for ratings. There's no reason for it -- it's not news anymore. A fitting memorial to Tim Russert would be for NBC News to change its ways. Please don't ever repeat what you did with his death.

2 Comments:

At June 20, 2008 2:08 PM, Anonymous Honest Question said...

Who was Tim Russert? Thanks to the internet, and easy access to foreign news sources, I don't was U.S. TV news any more. Way too much spin and propaganda.

 
At June 20, 2008 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taking a less cynical view I am grateful that the press's sycophancy for one of it's own took time away from their usual function of faithfully propagandizing for the Bush administration.

 

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