Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Another exhibit of not getting it

No, this is not another rant about a newsroom not getting the 'Net - although that's part of it. It's about a newsroom not getting it, period. And as news staffs continue to get cut, as they have at The State, you begin to wonder if anyone really is minding the store.

The case for the prosecution:
  • On Monday, the paper ran a nice advance story on PBS' "The History Detectives" having come to Columbia at the request of a history buff who thought the historical marker noting the bridge that Union Gen. William T. Sherman used to reach Columbia was out of place. The bridge is long gone, of course, but there appear to be remnants in the Broad River.
  • The story strongly hinted the history buff was right, but noted, "Everyone involved has been sworn to secrecy until the episode is shown." Fair enough.
  • Episode airs Monday night. History buff is proved correct.
  • Does The State update its story or do a follow-up story? Dare you to find one. Do a search on The State's Web site and you come up with a link that reads 'History Detectives' to Columbia Man: 'You were correct." Go ahead - click on that link. You will be almost instantly redirected back to the original, un-updated story! Hello? Anyone home?
Forget the intertubes. Forget that it's 2009. This is simply about getting it as journalists, period.

Having put the advance story in a prominent position one day, no city editor in his or her right mind in years past would not have done at least a short follow-up. But you won't find one in the paper. (And you've already gotten online whiplash if you clicked on that link.)

Sure, the paper put up a nice link to the video story on its Web site. I'd give kudos, but that should be routine these days. But what about folks who don't want to sit through 15 minutes of video, who have busy lives but who were left wondering from Monday's paper and may just want to know quickly "Did they ever prove it?"

Instead, this paper has gone from essentially owning the story and setting itself up to be "the answerer of questions," thus helping its follow-up audience, time on site and all that stuff, to potentially being major clueless irritant. (Not to mention there was additional info to be reported from Monday's show - that the history buff apparently has in process an application to move the marker. This involves Civil War history, folks, and such things are not taken lightly in these parts.)

I've seen this play out more and more. And it's not just papers. There was the recent disappearing act by TVs when it came to the early stages of the L.A. fires.

Let's hope "not getting it," a bad-enough ailment in the digital realm, doesn't turn out to be the creeping crud.

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At 9/10/09, 5:21 PM, Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

This reminds me of the story that said that John Edwards would admit that he's the father of his mistress's baby.

It hasn't happened, at least not yet, and it's been a month since the story was posted. Because the story cites "sources," it's impossible to know who's accountable for the information.

In other words, you are right: When the other shoe drops, report it. And if it doesn't, report why.

At 9/10/09, 5:59 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Yeah. The days of sweeping it under the rug, are gone, just as are the days of dumping the detritus on the copy desk.

It's 2009 already.

At 9/30/09, 9:52 AM, Blogger brink said...

I was the contributor (History Buff) for this History Detectives show. Your observations are very keen. I don’t have official ratings for our show but having monitored the top PBS video hit-list all summer, I can say that our show stayed in the most viewed video list for twice as long as any other History Detectives 2009 episode. I think PBS knew this was going to be a good one and that’s why they chose it as the final segment in the season finally as well as making it a stand-alone web video presentation. OPB (History Detectives) contacted 4 TV stations in Columbia and gave them all the info needed to do a story on this and there was absolutely no interest shown. Unfortunately, there was no coverage of the preservation plans for this historic site and I was hoping that local media coverage, in a follow-up, would give me the chance to present that. Overall, I am very grateful to The State for printing 2 front page stories on this (in 2007 and 2008) and it was one of these stories that caught the attention of PBS. I’m very disappointed in the local TV coverage. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I lost interest in local TV news coverage many years ago. Back in 2007 when The State ran its first story on this, a few Journalism students from USC came out and did a TV story on the find. The students were very surprised that the local stations had not contacted me. That’s a pretty sad statement on the state of local TV coverage.

At 9/30/09, 10:37 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Thanks for the insight, "brink."

It was a good show.



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