TV news should broaden its horizons

Tova Fruchtman:Quay County Sun

What is news worthy?

It’s a question we discussed often in my journalism classes at the University of Georgia.

There is not a clear answer, but a spectrum influenced by public opinion and editorial discretion.

Recently, we got cable turned on in our office so that we could stay up to date on breaking stories around the country.
But I have been disappointed with what I have found out about.

The stories I want to know more about — like the school shooting on an Indian Reservation in Minnesota — have gotten little coverage.

But I’ve seen minute to minute, expert to expert coverage of Terri Schiavo’s week-long dehydration since her feeding tube was removed. They’ve had interviews with every expert, every activist, every family member, politicians and protesters.

The story dominated 80 percent of the time.

A few weeks ago, news on whether Michael Jackson would show up to court late dominated coverage.

And it’s not just one news channel. In order to compete for ratings, it seems they all cover and follow the same stories, talk to the same people.

Learning how it may be possible to detect and prevent school violence is much more important to me than knowing whether or not Michael Jackson will make it to court on time (some channels even had countdown clocks on the screen) or hearing what yet another person thinks about the Teri Schivo case.

The purpose of the news is to help people. Citizens form educated opinions about issues so they can make informed decisions when they vote.

But by allowing one story to dominate the stations day after day provides no one with this service.

It does however keep people coming back for more, the same way that a sitcom or a reality television show keeps people tuning in.

In a capitalist economy is it possible to separate news from ratings?

I’m not sure.

The broadcast news I hold dear to my heart works on a voluntary donation basis — National Public Radio.

Each morning we spent at my dad’s house growing up he blasted it as we got ready for school.

In the mornings since I have lived on my own, I too have listened to NPR to find out what is going on around the world.

The variety of stories covered makes NPR feel a more reliable source for news, and less mundane one.
I’m not contending that the people who work for these television news stations are corrupt, pushing an agenda or unreliable. I just think they should cover more stories at time — especially as outlets for national news.

If there are stories you believe are newsworthy that aren’t getting space in our paper, feel free to give me a call or drop me a line about them. I would be happy to discuss it with you.

Tova Fruchtman is the managing editor of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached at 461-1952 or by e-mail:
tova_fruchtman@link.freedom.com