Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tragedy

I pulled down an optimistic post from Saturday after Matal Sanchez was found dead and his step-grandmother charged. I was hoping the weekend would see a happier ending.

The post praised the restraint and solid coverage in all Portland media - one based on facts and a sense of urgency.

Its conclusion reminds me of the time when I and many colleagues think Portland TV news took a fateful turn - the weekend when police searched and discovered the bodies of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis. The wall-to-wall coverage was embarrassing and un-professional as reporters from every station speculated and, most disappointingly, interviewed every Tom, Jason and Hillary that was willing to come up to the microphone. News managers were most complicit as they pushed their teams to get everyone on camera who wanted - adding nothing to the understanding of the terrible and complex story - just a window into how people are drawn to coverage like moths.

The exclaimation point came when Anna Song spoke at the memorial service for the girls - a line we all thought she crossed. Her boss came to her defense after much public (LA Times, the O) criticism, but she was wrong. To her defense, it wasn't anything Anna did for publicity or to further the cause of KATU - she got close to the story. Too close for some. Anna is a good woman and serious about her work. It was a tough call but it added to the pile that created what many see today and what many of us struggle to call our craft.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched KGWs coverage of the Sanchez story last night, and the only really unprofessional part of it came when they occupied a gossiping group of neighbors, and showed them saying "Oh, I KNEW it!" when they heard the stepgrandmother had been arrested.

The Gaddis-Pond something was one of the worst moments in local news I can remember. The wall-to-wall helicopter coverage, the constant showing of the idiot parents who were bringing their kids ("hey, honey, let's go check out the crime scene where two kids were killed!") down to peer through the fence at Weaver's house..it was all incredibly disgusting.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 9:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the coverage was more respectful and professional this weekend because all the regular staff were on vacation?

Sunday, July 03, 2005 9:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That "gossiping" group of neighbors appears to have been hit hard by the tragic loss of a little boy. Also,would you have called the neighbors "gossiping" if it was a group of men?
And the fact that "idiot" parents do idiotic things is reality...it's not up to the reporters to judge them but to show folks at home the reality of the situation, not sugar coat it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Alan DeWitt said...

You have the inalienable right to turn these personal tragedies into media events, but don't kid yourself into thinking that doing so is a public service. You make them into media events for company profit and your own glory, stripmining others' grief to fuel your industry. Folks here have made it abundantly clear that profit displaces public service, and this arena is no different in that regard.

Television involvement in stories like this is rarely helpful to the families involved. The bereaved family members' generally don't need their grief and rage amplified throughout the city, and are not well served by having their loss echoed to them over the weeks, months, and years following the incident.

The opinions of the neighbors usually add nothing to the story. (If by chance they do add something useful, those opinions contaminate the jury pool.) Y'all may think the public needs to be shown what's happening, but they don't need to be shown it in the level of detail that TV news typically shows it.

If you want to report this sort of thing kindly, for God's sake start by pooling the video. A griefstricken parent doesn't need a camera in her face at all, let alone four. (And is probably not fully competent to make decisions on public appearances on top of everything else.) Restrain the speculations and hearsay, and report only what is known. Editors and producers, imagine what it is like to be a loved one of the deceased listening in to your reports day after day after day, detailing the horrible events. Show some empathy through restraint.

(I don't have to imagine. My niece died in an event that became a media circus. While it was more kindly done in 1986 than lately, it was still nearly insufferable.)

Sunday, July 03, 2005 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did a piece for PBS' "Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly" in 1998, on assisted suicide. After the subject of the piece died (before he got the prescription), I spoke at his memorial service. It was entirely appropriate. There were no cameras present.
There was a lot wrong with the Gaddis-Pond coverage, but Song's speaking at the memorial service was on one hand gratiutous, and on the other (if sincere), a good thing. It's a tough call. I had gotten to know the guy, she had only gotten to know the killer.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 1:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No totally fair. Anna got to know the victims families. It was still wrong.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 1:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose we could also fault the prosecuting attorney in Aruba for witholding the little tidbit that the three subjects in custody were "charged" with the murder of Natalie Holloway, if only to "protect the feelings of her family members" who were searching (in vain) for their living daughter. While no formal charges were filed, (apparently,) they will be arraigned this week.

I believe that story eclipses the murders of Pond and Gaddis, and the coverage has been just as incessant as local coverage of the murders here. There is a fine line between a victim's right to privacy and the public right to be informed. That line gets bent, crossed, and trampled on a fairly regular basis. The editors and producers who push from the office aren't the ones who must face the music when crews push too hard in the field.

It is incumbent on all of us who cover news to remember what it is to be on the other side of the camera. If we respect the feelings of victims and their families, we stand a better chance of getting information that will provide the public with an understanding of what really happened.

It may not be as timely as we would all like, but often timeliness is not the most important factor in understanding a crime. It takes law enforcement weeks and months to develop a case, and we try to turn a story with the same information in minutes or hours.

It starts with reporters and photographers to show a bit of class. One over-ambitious journalist can ruin if for all of us.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why was it wrong for Song to do that? Nobody has given any reasons.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger Notorious J.E.S said...

So, this post makes me wonder a, perhaps, slightly related question: what about Phil Stanford/Frank Gable? Has Phil made himself a part of that story? I think that he has. If so, is that over the line?

Sunday, July 03, 2005 5:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets cut the crap about over the line and under the line and just cover the G D News, for cryin out loud. Let the Oregonian media ombudsman do all the hand wringing.

Sunday, July 03, 2005 7:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Ratings Period said...

We are in a Ratings period this month in television land, which means anchors are NOT off. We used to get away with not observing the July ratings period, but as far as I know all the stations do not allow time off for anchors this month nowdays. "Year-round" programming is the culprit.
Oh, and November, February, and May are off limits too.

Monday, July 04, 2005 8:53:00 AM  
Blogger MAX Redline said...

Hmm. To tell the truth, I don't watch much tv news these days - mainly because it _isn't_ news. I happened by the set when someone (I think it might have been KPTV); my Bride was watching a Perry Mason rerun, as I recall - interrupted whatever was on for "breaking news" on the Sanchez investigation. That so-called breaking news turned out to be a press conference at which the mother sat crying and hiccupping. Excuse me! That's not breaking news - it's personal grief exhibited like a circus sideshow.

I find this sort of thing entirely disgusting, which is one big reason why I seldom watch anything the local channels have to "offer".

Another big reason for not watching the locals: their stupid "storm team" coverage. All of them have a "storm team". And when the first snowflakes fall, you can bet they'll be out atop Sylvan hill, demonstrating how slippery it is, and out in Troutdale, showing how the wind is blowing.

Sorry folks, it ain't worth watching. If I want news, I go online. For entertainment, I go to satellite tv.

There was a time when local stations actually had cool stuff, like the old Northwest Reports show with Lars Larson and veteran Jim Hyde. When there was Town Hall with Jack Faust.

I watched that stuff. Now, I never watch local tv.

Monday, July 04, 2005 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KPTV loves to SCARE Portland every night at 10pm (boo!), so they must be very disappointed a maniacal serial killer didn't do the kid.

It was Greedy Granny (off her meds) with a temper. Par for the course. Last time it was the Wacky neighbor named Ward.

Despite KPTV's scare tactics, it's NEVER a stranger, just the sleazy friend or relative lurking in the shadows trying to get their story straight.

Rest in peace, Matal. You deserved better.

Monday, July 04, 2005 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"KPTV loves to SCARE Portland every night at 10pm (boo!)"

You poor baby.. maybe KPTV will buy you a teddy bear to sleep with so the big monsters don't get you.

Monday, July 04, 2005 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KPTV can't afford a teddy bear. Seen the numbers? The trends? The demos?

I have.

Monday, July 04, 2005 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stupid Storm Team Coverage"
Hmmmm.
Coverage of bad weather draws the biggest tv audiences in our area to their tubes.
Guess the viewers are just to "stupid" to understand they shouldn't care.

Monday, July 04, 2005 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"KPTV can't afford a teddy bear. Seen the numbers? The trends? The demos?

I have."

Oooh I want to see.. can you post?

Monday, July 04, 2005 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Simp said...

"..suppose we could also fault the prosecuting attorney in Aruba..."

Nah. If ya don't mind I'll continue to fault you guys for continuing to participate in the "attractive white woman" tradgedy of the week.

Guess the viewers are just to "stupid" to understand they shouldn't care.

No, its just that bad weather is something that directly affects us all. I think the point in calling it "stupid" is in reference to the overly dramatic, voyeuristic circus that you guys seem to feel the need to create. DRAMA!

As I've mentioned here before, I really do think that there are few people that report the weather really well here in town. Its just when storms hit that things just get downright silly.

Also, seems to be that voyeur central has shifted from Sylvan to Mt Scott the last couple of storms.

As a side note, a while back I taped a bit of the weather coverage from several stations and sent it back to my relatives in Denver. They were certainly entertained by it.

Monday, July 04, 2005 6:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my family members' co-workers was watching the news one night as the Pond-Gaddis disappearance had become the Pond-Gaddis murder. The reporter and cameraperson were inside Weaver's house, showing, as I understand, stains on the walls, while the reporter was talking about how something might have happened with the girls there.

The person watching got so distraut with this, they called KGW to complain about what they were still showing on TV as she was talking to them, appealing to them with 'what if any family are watching?...' eventually someone related to the story got on the phone and said if she didn't like what she was watching to... turn off the TV!

Wow, what a wonderful way to keep the viewers you have... tell them to turn the TV off. I remember not too long ago when the anchor would say 'we'd like to caution our viewers that the following story is graphic,' and all they would show was someone's bruise from being hit by an air gun or whatever.

Monday, July 04, 2005 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another big reason for not watching the locals: their stupid "storm team" coverage. All of them have a "storm team". And when the first snowflakes fall, you can bet they'll be out atop Sylvan hill, demonstrating how slippery it is, and out in Troutdale, showing how the wind is blowing.

I literally laughed out loud when I read that. A bit harsh and hilarious, but very true.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger KPTV-Watch said...

Anonymous said:

KPTV loves to SCARE Portland every night at 10pm (boo!), so they must be very disappointed a maniacal serial killer didn't do the kid."

Yup, the KPTV 10 o'clock 'cast is taped in Scare-O-Vision.

"It was Greedy Granny (off her meds) with a temper. Par for the course. Last time it was the Wacky neighbor named Ward.

"Despite KPTV's scare tactics, it's NEVER a stranger, just the sleazy friend or relative lurking in the shadows trying to get their story straight."

They LOVE to imply that BIG SCARY *DANGER* is everywhere. Every stranger is a released sex offender bent on stealing your ID. Pathetic.

"Rest in peace, Matal. You deserved better."

I'm not religious in any way, but Amen to that.

Thursday, July 07, 2005 3:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KPTV Watch, you forgot to mention the ID stealing sex offender was also a meth-head. And NOW you have the PDX news trifecta! Let's lead with it!

Thursday, July 07, 2005 2:24:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home