On A Slow News Day

Boy, this time of year is tough for a newsroom. No news may be good news but not for producers and reporters. There’s barely enough news out there to fill one newscast, let alone 2 1/2 hours.

One thing I do every morning when I first sit down at the computer is to look at the newspapers from around Tennessee and Alabama. Usually there are a few stories among those newspapers that we can localize for a story in Nashville. But not the week between Christmas and New Years Day. Apparently either everyone behaves themselves or there aren’t enough reporters these days to find out what’s going on.

Case in point: the headline in both the Gallatin and Hendersonville local editions of The Tennessean is a story about 156 jobs being lost in Portland due to a plant closing. We talked about that story in the morning meeting yesterday. I made calls on it, and was almost ready to drive to northern Sumner County when I looked back through our archives to see some of the other plants that have closed there in the last 2 years.

That’s when I saw this sameĀ  plant closing story from one of our newscasts in July.

If you are going to do something bad out there, you’d better not do it between Christmas and New Years Day. Because nothing else is happening, you’ll be the lead story for days.

I remember back in 1994 I was in Huntsville at WHNT-TV19. We’d had a press release come across the assignment desk the week or two before Christmas about a bullet that could penetrate the armored vests worn by police officers. “The Black Rhino” was developed by a company there and, if I’m remembering correctly, they had a news conference to make the announcement.

I do remember accurately that at the time, we didn’t cover it. There wasn’t any news coverage of the initial “Black Rhino” announcement from any of the local tv stations, WAAY, WAFF or WHNT. That press release passed through our file and meetings without much discussion, probably because we had so many other ‘real news’ stories to tackle.

During the week of December 25-31st though, the story gained legs. The Huntsville Times printed something and boom, “Black Rhino” got picked up by The Associated Press, Newsweek, and then the major network newsrooms. It was the lead story at least one night that week on CBS, ABC and NBC (again, as memory serves). And we looked around the newsroom at each other and asked, “how’d we miss this?”.

“The Black Rhino” story actually wasn’t that big of a deal at all. The developer was beating his chest rather than telling the whole truth. He didn’t have ATF approval, and hadn’t given anyone a sample or proven this magic bullet did what he claimed.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Martin Fackler, a longtime Army surgeon criticized the media for giving attention to the bullet in the first place. “I find it almost amusing the news media would be so gullible to print what they did”, he said.

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