Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cookie cutter coverage

In honor of the Pocono 500, I'd like to point out a pet peeve that's so common in this area. It's the time-honored tradition of covering a major event with the same stories that were done in previous years. It's as if the assignment desk digs up a checklist of the same ways to cover the same story every year, because it's easy to do.

Case in point: WNEP aired a Pocono preview story Friday, about how the annual NASCAR race is a "boost for business." NO DUH! Major sporting events tend to bring money to the area. Is this news to anyone? That's like doing a story entitled, "Doctor washes hands before surgery."

WNEP is not alone; WBRE and WYOU also trot out the same tired stories on other annual events. The worst examples from all three stations include the ever-popular "PennDOT is gearing up for that big winter storm by putting gas in its snow plows," or the "Idiots are buying milk, bread, and eggs before the storm hits." It's the same thing every year!

You can't avoid major stories, like the Pocono 500, but you can avoid the same year-after-year cookie cutter coverage. When I covered a major annual event in this area a long time ago, I poked around to find an interesting way to cover it. I won't speak in specifics, but I ended up finding a great story about how a group of people made their way to the event. I thought it was a new and interesting twist on the event, and my boss didn't disagree.

To sum it all up: It's not really news if it's now new, is it?


Blogger :) Jenna said...

Look for the same kind of stuff during the Little League World Series in South Williamsport come July...

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cookie-Cutter? Let's see...

Any Pocono Nascar race.
Bloomsburg Fair.
LL World Series.
Fine Arts Fiesta.
La Festa.

I could gag. I'm not alone, right? The Bloomsburg Fair, although a fine event, DOES NOT DESERVE week-long coverage. Can we just put an end to it.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous TapeJam said...

As a reporter in the area I completely agree. But as a reporter in the area I'm also a huge hypocrite because I do those stories just like everyone else. It doesn't apply to just big events...every day news is often repeated too. Think of how many stories you run in your newsroom that you could've pulled a tape from the year before (or a week before) and nobody would know the difference. "Well it's June," the assignment editor said to the reporter. "Time to get a story on people picking strawberries." or "Wow, gonna' be 90 out there today. Go find some roofers." "But it's summer," the reporter pointed out. "Isn't it supposed to be hot out? Besides we did that last week." After a brief pause, the assignment editor replied with "yeah but that ran at 5. This will go at 6." I think there are a few things at play here. One (and we've heard this here before) there's just not enough news in this market to support a 5, 5:30, 6...and at least at WNEP a 7. So when you need to fill time...and it's warm outside, it's easy. But that's not to say you can't do a warm weather story and make it different from all the others. Problems there are (a) Most of the reporters in this market aren't very good and (b) it's tough to do when you have to go get another story and maybe a vo or vo/sot. Who has time to be original and creative? I've been there, done that...will likely do it again. But it does drive me crazy sometimes. Sorry if this rant bored you all but it feels good to vent again. Welcome back HB.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nearly 750,000 people come through Bloomsburg during that week, not to mention its the largest fair in the state and it doesn't deserve coverage?

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bloom Fair deserves coverage, indeed. What it doesn't merit is non-stop, every-day, gotta-be-there and do live coverage. It's an agricultural fair, like the Wayne County Fair, the Harford Fair. Fine events, but ferrcrissakes, stop shoving Bloom up everyone's nose like it's a World's Fair. Besides, 93% of the fair is food. Big farging deal...

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree. The "same-old" means that life is going normally and nothing big and bad happened to push the cookie-cutter stuff off the schedule. Boring? Nah. How many kids get bored with Santa coming even though he's there every year at the same time? Anything that a lot of people want to see IS news. The kind of news you get when you come home and ask "What's NEW?" I'll take it. It reflects real life, which isn't always in the fast lane.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an outsider to the news business but an avid viewer, I feel that I can provide some analysis on the news situation in our area.

1) I usually turn to WNEP news first but find it almost done within the 1st 15 minutes (as soon as weather is over, I turn it off)

2) PA Morning has no personality.

3) How long can all 3 major news stations go with the same stories. I literally watched news stories on 5-6 different broadcasts on 3 different days.

4) Am I dumb or is the day of the live reporters gone? I remember when there were actually stories that were unique and live with reporters. It seems like it is all voice overs now.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Fryer Drew said...

How about the recent spate of "last ______________ at local Catholic school"? Could the last three monts have just been pasted in with a few words changed?

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What should be pointed out is that this market will never generate the type of news NYC or Philly does. When the Fair or the NASCAR boys are in town..guess what? That's the news of the day like it or not. That's what is happening in our area. Let's not blame the area's reporters for the lack of activity in the market.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the stations are "two packages a day" factories!
u rarely see any more journalism that makes a's the same old S_ _ _t fires==car accidents==more cops and robbers news---news releases turned into packages. The day of having enough time to have a cup of java with a source is gone.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The day of having enough time to have a cup of java with a source is gone."

11:15 AM

Not just this market it never existed. The emphasis has always been on filling the local news with LOCAL news, and not even WNEP (a legend in their own minds) has ever been able to fill its news hole (much less pie-hole) with reporters turning one a day.

That's why there's no REAL investigative reporting in this market: no one can afford the time to have a crew off the street to do REAL digging. That's why we get, "Is your spaghetti sauce killing your kids?" teases.

1:05 PM  

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