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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.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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