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Does Local Media Cover DUIs Too Much?

Among the questions raised by Tampa Tribune editor Janet Weaver's recent arrest on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence -- including whether she will keep her job -- is one many talented journalists have asked me.

Should local media cover DUI arrests so prominently?

The list of local journalism figures who have been pinched on this charge is long: WTSP anchor Reginald Roundtree (who insisted he was not impaired and pled guilty to a reckless driving charge), radio personality Nancy Alexander, now-deceased WFLA sports director Chris Thomas, Times sports writer Rick Stroud and outgoing Times TV critic Chase Squires to name a few.

The tradition of prominently covering DUI arrests of Times staffers dates back many years to the time former editor Eugene Patterson demanded his DUI arrest run on the front page. With that legacy, we have often aggressively covered the arrests of prominent local citizens and Times staffers, though not often on the front page.

I was surprised to note, while telling friends at a seminar at the Poynter Institute about this coverage pattern last year, that many prominent journalists there questioned why we covered DUI arrests at all -- saying such arrests were too common. Others suggested the arrest might be noted in a short story a few paragraphs long, with a longer story published if the person is convicted.

There seems to be a difference of opinion even among public comments on the Tampa Tribune's web site, with some arguing that the seriousness of drunk driving warrants the attention. I worry that the current hysteria surrounding many journalists' mistakes may unduly curb or crumple promising careers -- leading us to drum some people out of the profession without fully considering the circumstances.

What do you think? Have local media gone DUI crazy? Or, in a world where drunk driving arrests of actors in Hawaii can garner worldwide headlines, are we just doing our jobs?

LOST Producers: DUI Did Not Bring Death

Producers on ABC's hit series Lost insist that their move to cap actresses Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros in last week's episode had nothing to do with the women's arrest for DUI last year.

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse told that Rodriguez came to the show insisting her Ana Lucia character last just one year (though she seemed to waver in that conviction after a few months on the Lost success train). Watros' character may not be dead, though she was shot twice in the abdomen in last week's episode.

I just hope Evangeline Lilly has a driver standing by...

The View Loses Another Diva

Gleeful anticipation of actual on-air combat between newly hired co-host Rosie O'Donnell and her longtime nemesis Star Jones have faded following renewed rumors that Jones will be ousted from the show -- and a separate rumor that her replacement might be Oprah's gal pal Gayle King.

My question: Will ABC/Disney let King spend 20 minutes talking about her pal Oprah? And if not, will she have anything else to say?

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


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