Monday, May 02, 2011

And Where Was the News?

Like millions of Americans (I presume), I was in front of the television set late last night awaiting the president's comments on the death of Osama bin Laden. After a certain amount of channel surfing, in which we saw a lot of talking heads all saying pretty much the same things, we ended up on CBS.

As I waited for the president, I also had Twitter running on my phone. Tellingly, it was Twitter that first brought me the news of bin Laden's demise. (Actually, it was my wife calling down from upstairs shortly before 10:00 p.m. CDT that a friend of our son had just texted him the news, prompting me to check Twitter. It would be several minutes before my e-mail started popping with news alerts from various sources.) By and by, tweets began to appear describing scenes of celebrating crowds that had gathered in front of the White House, cheering, chanting, and singing the national anthem.

And then CBS's White House bloke interrupts himself to say that his producer had just stepped outside and reported back that crowds had gathered, cheering, chanting, etc.

And my thought was, Where was the news?

Here we have a guy standing in front of a sign saying CBS News White House, and reporting that his producer ran outside to see what was going on. But where were the pictures? It seems to me that even two or three years ago, the reporter would have interrupted himself to throw to another reporter out on Pennsylvania Avenue, showing us the cheering, chanting, singing crowds. But that costs money, I suppose, so instead we have a talking head telling us what is going on outside the building.

I might as well have been listening on the radio.

Or reading it on Twitter.


Erika said...

I had the feeling that the news folks were more concerned about accuracy than scooping the competition. It was strange to hear first from Twitter, as I did also, but when the president kept the reporters waiting an hour, they seemed paralyzed, thinking there might be some doubt or change in message. Showing premature excitement and joy, if it had turned out that a lot of American lives had been lost...made them nervous. Or maybe I'm making excuses for them!

William J Reynolds said...

The spontaneous demonstrations in front of the White House were news, though. CBS, at least, saw fit to tell us that they were happening (after, as I mentioned, Twitter had already done so...I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the news crew relied on Twitter to tell them what was going on right outside of the building they were reporting from)--but there were no pictures. I suspect the reason has more to do with slashed budgets for newsgathering organizations than anything else. It probably just cost too much to have another crew on the scene to report on what was going on outside as well. (At least until about 11:15 p.m. CDT, when I shut it off for the night.)