Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Alberto Just a Test Run for Hurricane-Focused News Media -- and Viewers

Is it me, or was Rob Marciano a little, well, disappointed?

Watching CNN's coverage of Tropical Storm Alberto's approach Monday, I saw weather anchor Marciano stationed in Cedar Key, trying valiantly to make breezy, cloudy weather sound a bit more ominous than it turned out to be.

Luckily, Alberto never strengthened into even a weak hurricane and the problems from the weather have been limited to flooding from the storm surge, which impacted areas where Marciano wasn't standing. Even now, on Tuesday afternoon, reporter Dan Lothian is pointing to stiff winds and flooding in Steinhatchee with a dramatic air, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be much going on.

I actually had to watch the approach of Alberto from south Florida, where I had gone with my family for a long vacation weekend. forget about snorkeling or any outside activities in the Keys Saturday or Sunday; Alberto dumped enough rain on the state to make all that unworkable. The only benefit was that I didn't have to sit through hours of local TV guys using their Super-Duper Doppler 10,000 to hype coverage of a storm which thankfully turned out less destructive than it could have been.

I didn't get back to town until Monday night, so perhaps I should ask you guys -- Got any fun weather coverage gaffes (or triumphs) to share? In addition to helping the weather chasers figure out how they want to handle heavy storms this season, Alberto should help you figure out who you can trust when the doppler really hits the fan.

New MSNBC Team Announced

Okay, never mind that MSNBC's new general manager, NBC Chief Legal Correspondent Dan Abrams, has never held a TV management job besides supervising his own MSNBC show. And forget that the brain trust at NBC didn't take his show, The Abrams Report, off the schedule when it announced his promotion (reportedly, he will step down from the program soon).

But why, as my pal Aaron Barnhart astutely noticed on his blog, did they also let Abrams keep his OTHER, other job as the network's top legal reporter?

Isn't this a network that is placing third among the three cable outlets and desprately in need of a ratings draw who isn't named Olbermann or Matthews? Don't they need a general manager who doesn't also have another job? Or an executive-in-charge who isn't also overseeing the Today show? (at least they reportedly put Weekends with Maury and Connie out of our misery; maybe the PR department got tired of taking press calls on Maury's sexual harassment lawsuits)

NYT Story on Minority Source List Seems a Little, um, Thin

I was struck by the Times' story Monday on the drive to create a minority source list at the Detroit Free Press for several reasons: not least of which was my effort to create similar lists as organizations where I've worked.

First, I was amazed that creation of such a list would merit a seven-paragraph story in the nation's paper of record, particularly since every newspaper where I've worked has had a similar list of minority sources -- that's over 15 years at four different newspapers.

Second, I was surprised at this paragraph: "Some in the newsroom objected, saying sources should be quoted because they were the most credible on a topic or the most articulate, not because they fit an ethnic profile. They said they feared the day they might have to delete an insightful quote from a majority source in favor of a less useful quote from someone who would help the newspaper meet corporate goals."

I must say, my exprience on this issue has been much different. Here at the St. Pete Times and the other papers I've worked, the list serves two good purposes: providing a good lineup of resources when reporting stories that involve race issues, and encouraging reporters to consider finding qualified experts of color when assembling stories where any expert opinion will do.

One study of network news shows from 2001 found just 4 percent of expert sources were black American men, compared to 12 percent for white American females and 62 percent for white American males.

So it seems to me the bigger, demonstrable problem, is underrepresentation of people of color in stories where they could easily serve as experts.

Other Stuff --

Somebody asked what I thought of the Kansas City Royals yanking the credentials of two radio reporters who asked tough questions at a press conference. To me, it smells like something they did to appease the owner, who was probably personally snarked off by their behavior. I also wouldn't be surprised if they quietly reinstate their credentials once the owner's ire has softened a bit and press criticism reaches a crescendo.

Unprofessional, to be sure. But often the way the sports media cookie crumbles.

6 Comments:

  • At 10:23 AM, June 14, 2006, Anonymous said…

    eric:

    what the royals did to two reporters in yanking their credentials because the owner didn't like the questions that were asked -- fair questions -- not even vince naimoli did that.

    naimoli tried to ban martin fennelly but fennelly got his credentials through MLB's offices in new york, not the rays.

    i honestly have never heard of this before. and given the fact that the owner of the royals is a wal mart executive, i find the irony priceless.

    can't believe that MLB's honchos haven't stepped in to restore the reporters' credentials.

    the gall of sports owners that beg if not extort public funds for stadiums and then try to silence reporters for questions they don't care for.

    as for abrams, his greatest feat -- and one he likely will never match -- was that he was engaged to actress elisabeth rohm, the stunning blonde assistant district attorney of law and order fame.

    all i can say about that on a family blog is: "damn!"

    even if abrams lost ("was engaged"), he still won (rohm).

     
  • At 10:57 AM, June 14, 2006, Eric Deggans said…

    I have always thought pro sports team owners were shameless in their capacity to demand resources from the public while refusing to be open and accountable about how they run their teams.

    Now that the credentialing issue is getting wider recognition, we'll see what happens as the pulbicity tuns up the heat. I thought MLB committed a major weaseling out by saying they would have defended the reporters if they belonged to the print journalists' baseball writers' group. Why should that make a difference in principle?

    Perhaps the electronic media needs to form their own journalists' group to gain similar clout...

     
  • At 12:24 PM, June 14, 2006, formerly mr anonyous said…

    re minority sources:
    to my knowledge, such lists and required quotes from minorities has been policy at gannett now for quite a long time, much to the disgust of many gannett employees. that is one of the reasons why gannett is a dirty word in the newspaper world.

    cd the nyt be so out of touch as not to know that?

    im not the slightest bit surprised youd be in favor of this, but something about it rubs many journos the wrong way.

    wd readers ever suspect, for example, they are reading quotes from people, not because they are the best sources, but because their names are far down a list of minority experts and are thus due a chance to have their opinions published?
    i dont think so.

    usually, the most oft-quoted are the best sources bec they know the most.

     
  • At 2:28 PM, June 14, 2006, Anonymous said…

    I thought MLB committed a major weaseling out by saying they would have defended the reporters if they belonged to the print journalists' baseball writers' group. Why should that make a difference in principle?

    exactly. when i first heard this, i wondered if the kansas city chapter of the baseball writers of america would lodge a protest of some sort on behalf of those two reporters (if it happened to radio reporters it could happen to print reporters).

    and i think you are correct: maybe the electronic media needs to join forces like the print media has.

     
  • At 2:51 PM, June 14, 2006, Eric Deggans said…

    Regarding minority expert sources --

    It's been my experience that the most often quoted sources have three qualities: they are always accessible, they have knowledge of the topic and they know how to speak in the kind of quotable lines reporters love.

    No newsorganization worth its mettle would delete expert opinions because of someone's ethnicity. What these lists do is give reorters starting from ground zero a way to diversify the range of people they talk to for stories. If you're picking potential sources from a chamber of commerce list or from the telephone book, how hard would it be to instead use a list of qualified experts of color?

    The idea is that, say, a realtor of color might have a different sense of the history of home sales and residential patterns in St. Petersburg simply because of the history of segregation and separation locally. Hopefully, reporters would find new dimensions to stories they are covering and hear about concerns outside of a select group of insiders.

    When people first talked about diversifying the reporting staffs of newspapers, there was lots of loose speculation about how the "best" reporters wouldn't be hired anymore. But now we realize that, by hiring a diversity of reporters, we get a wider range of views into our news product.

    Why wouldn't that concept also work when applied to expert sources?

     
  • At 8:14 PM, June 14, 2006, Mr. Gator said…

    Eric,

    Most consider the Times to be an excellent black newspaper, but I am curious, how does the Times determine the percentage of white related news to include?

     

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