We’re Running This Story Because We have Great Video and the Memphis Manatee is Truly History

So, I’m grabbing my second cup of coffee and glance up at the TV which is tuned to MSNBC and I see Andrea Mitchell talking about “Breaking News” as they take a live satellite feed from Knoxville. The story: the airplane used by the traffic reporter in Knoxville can’t get the landing gear down and the pilot is having to circle to burn off fuel for the inevitable gear-up landing. Now, I was interested in the story since I’m a private pilot but and I’m not trying to be callous here, who really cares. Yes, the lives of some people are in danger and the pilot has to land but if there was a car crash in Knoxville involving a couple of people, would we care. It might be worthy of local coverage in that particular market. No, the only reason the video is shown is because it has the potential to be some great footage if the plane DIDN’T land without a major incident. Most of these landings, even with the bigger planes go without a hitch. Oh, the plane probably gets damaged but that’s because it landed on its belly. I fully expect to see this story on Memphis area TV newscasts.
The mantra of “run it because it’s good video” reminds me of something I posted on earlier in the year about video we ran when I was anchoring mornings. We had a story about a convenience store robbery in Australia. We ran the story because the security camera captured the robbery on video. I know this because I asked why we cared about this story and I was told “because we’ve got great video“. It had nothing to do with the story, just the video. Sometimes a story’s video does make it newsworthy, but many times it’s just filling a news hole. I’d bet there are some news directors who watch a live feed like a plane landing with its gear up and are saying to themselves or out loud, “I hope the pilot doesn’t make it”. I’ve seen this kind of behavior so I know it happens.
And speaking of not making it, the Memphis manatee bit the muck of the Mighty Mississippi. I was truly sorry to see it happen as I have a fondness for these gentle giants and had hoped he or she would be rescued and flown or trucked home. When he disappeared I had hoped he would have let the current take him farther south. But that’s not the way the story ended. Perhaps someone in the Memphis area will write a blues song in his honor.

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2 Comments on “We’re Running This Story Because We have Great Video and the Memphis Manatee is Truly History”

  1. jamey tucker Says:

    A good post Joe. I remember soon after I arrived in Memphis, we had a liveshot of a crop duster that had crashed in a field in western Arkansas. But the news director was clearly having second thoughts about even covering it.

    “Nobody was hurt. It was just a crop duster. We wouldn’t have covered a single car accident, so why did we cover this?”

    But times changed. Management sees a greater value in “great video” than it does in a “great story”. Another general manager once told me “content doesn’t matter” when it comes to broadcasting the news. All that matters is getting eyeballs to the screen, the reason they’re watching isn’t important. Live video of a plane landing sans landing gear will catch the attention of our voyeuristic culture.
    But as my dad liked to say “that don’t make it right.”

  2. Anonymous Says:

    First LIVE shot in Memphis. The first LIVE shot in Memphis should never be forgotten and I try to remind people every chance I get as to what it was, so we will never forget it. A monkey had escaped from the Memphis Zoo and Channel 5 covered it LIVE as the search went on. I suppose if the phrase had been alive at the time it would have been classified as “Breaking News”. But instead, it was just plain old LIVE news. I’m sorry I don’t remember when the monkey was captured or other important details.


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