That last post got me to thinking about one of my former news directors. There was an incident that caused a bit of a stir at the time in the newsroom and in his office and with at least one viewer.
I was sent out on a story where a 70 year old woman had been raped. We did a live shot at noon, and a package and live shot for one of the evening shows. Somewhere in my live hit, I candidly said what “an awful thing it is for a person to rape a 70 year old woman.”
By the time I made it back to the station, the news director had taken a call from an angry viewer. She was a rape victim herself, she said, and couldn’t believe a reporter would imply that the rape of a 70 year old woman is any worse than the rape of another woman of any age.
It was a good argument but I disagreed. The rape of a 70 year old woman, to me, was worse than the rape of a younger woman. I know when you say it like that it doesn’t sound right, but that’s what I was thinking as I stood out on that live shot.
It started a discussion between that news director and I about other crimes adn victims. Why is murder worse if it happens to one person than another? He argued that it shouldn’t be any worse if the Pope were killed than if a homeless man on the street is killed since they are both people and children of God. I disagreed again because the death of the Pope or another influential person affects a large number of people.
We couldn’t agree but he won the argument (bosses often do, or at least they think they do).
The truth is, the news media does make one crime more important and more tragic than others. Crime in Germantown or Collierville, where crime doesn’t happen every day, generally gets more coverage than a crime that happens on a side street in South Memphis. Is one worse than the other? No, crime is tragic no matter who’s involved, but one is more common than the other.
Many non-tv-news-types don’t understand this fact either. Some stories get more coverage because of what’s NOT happening. A shooting or carjacking may go unnoticed and unreported if there are other stories making news that day, but the same shooting or carjacking can easily become “team coverage” if that’s the only thing the news crews have to chase that day.
So if you’re going to do something you think might be covered by the news, do it on a day when there are other big things going on. Your picture may never hit the 5 o’clock news.