Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Perils of Print ...

Today, out there - in the real world, away from the computer keyboard - there has been almost as much talk about coverage of a particular news story, as there has been about the story itself.

I'm talking, of course, about the
coal mine tragedy in West Virginia. The story, in and of itself, is heart-wrenching, especially for those of us who have lived part of our lives in the rugged coal-mining country of the northeastern United States, and have experienced first-hand the prolonged agony of 'the watch,' the vigil that follows an accident in the mines.

Adding to it, is the furor over official announcements that most of the trapped miners had been found alive, prompting almost three hours of joyful celebration among families and friends ... only to be dashed when news came that all the miners but one were, actually, dead.

A chunk of the day's discussion was over the headlines and stories that appeared - not only in both of Midland-Odessa's daily newspapers, but in newspapers across the country - on the front page, sharing with their readers the good news of the first announcement. My own experience of that discussion was that the more derogatory comments tended to come from those who have never spent a day in a newsroom ... print, radio, television, whatever. Them's that know the least, as the old saying goes, tend to say the most.

Me, I just nod my head in understanding and sympathy. A mistake such as this is not unknown to any of us who have worked in the print medium ... but, on the other hand, it's not as common as some media critics would have you believe. In the old days, all a newspaper could do was take its licks and print a clarification in the next day's (or, in my case, at the
Fort Stockton Pioneer, the next week's) edition.

But, now, there is the online component of the print medium - a means to address, immediately and in detail, something that has appeared in print.


We had one outstanding example here, in West Texas. And, even though the Midland Reporter-Telegram has demanded that I not discuss their
website in my blog ... I'm going to, anyway, and urge you to read Jimmy Patterson's coverage of a story about 'the coverage of a story.'

1 comment:

Eric said...

I guess I've been hanging around with you MSM guys too much, but when I opened the MRT and saw that headline my first thought was "well, it wasn't their fault; that's the natural outcome of having a publication deadline." I decided at that moment to not even mention it online, provided that the MRT's website had the proper headline and story. I immediately jumped online to see. It did and I didn't.

Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses, and it's nice to know that in this case one weakness was shored up by another strength.