Commentary & Media 16 Feb 2007 07:39 am

Public safety or broadcast hype?

I’m watching the 6 o’clock news Tuesday night and wondering, like the rest of northeast Ohio, how much snow will fall and how bad things are likely to be the next morning, when an unrelated report catches my attention.

Some enterprising reporter, acting on a whistleblower tip, has discovered a potential safety flaw that causes automobile tires to explode. Or maybe simply to shred. At any rate, the results are the same: Large strips of torn rubber that used to be a tire. Heading down the road, such a blow-up or -out would be significant and possibly life-threatening.

More details, says the broadcast desk jockey, after the commercial. Which irks me a little, you know, because if it’s a safety issue I’d like to know before I crawl behind the wheel and go pick up my pizza and wings.

After the break, here comes the report. Yep, the tires are shredding. Washington D.C. is interested. Officials are looking into it. We see video of the whistleblower, driving down the road. Then cut to the reporter, who utters more dire words about the problem.

Then it’s back to the anchor, who promises we’ll learn everything we need to know about this vital safety issue … but not until 11 o’clock. That’s almost five hours away! If it’s so important, why do I have to wait? How many people might be in jeopardy who otherwise would not if the channel had aired the story at 6 p.m.?

That’s when I decided — sight unseen — that the remainder of the story wasn’t worth staying up to see, and that the whole thing was undoubtedly another shrewd sell-job by television ratings chasers.

Newspapers have their faults, but at least in that profession nobody sits on news until it is “sold” to the audience. If it’s important, we write a story, put a headline on it, and send it out into the world.

To do otherwise is irresponsible.

One Response to “Public safety or broadcast hype?”

  1. on 16 Feb 2007 at 1.Suzanne Domer said …

    This is the reason I gave up watching local news years ago. If the story is important to the public, just tell it! I consider these promos as “teasers” to lure you into watching the 11 p.m. broadcast. Sorry, that’s past my bedtime.

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