HOW A TV CRITIC ACTUALLY GOT IT WRONG WRITING ABOUT HOW THE MEDIA GOT IT WRONG IN TODAY'S NEWS COVERAGE
The horrible event that occured over night can lead to thoughtful reflection. But in the case of a Variety article - Media Coverage of Orlando Tragedy Follows Familiar Scripts - written by TV critic Sonia Saraiya, her review of the live media coverage of the mass murders comes off as a knee jerk response rather than exhibiting any signs of deep thoughts. My major problem with the article is crystallized in a single paragraph written by Ms. Saraiya —
It’s hard not to feel cynical about our national ability to process such tragedy, given our polarized and politically entrenched populace, when you’re watching news coverage scramble to find a convenient narrative that fits — and then some networks abruptly drop that coverage mid-stream (though, of course, more coverage and news specials will be forthcoming in the next few days and weeks).
Every writer who decides to do a snapshot view of TV news should keep in mind –
1 – If you believe something is wrong, then be specific about your criticism. And offer the reader your thoughts on what you would have done differently under similar circumstances.
The writer of this piece writes, “you’re watching news coverage scramble to find a convenient narrative that fits.”
How does Ms. Saraiya define her phrase “convenient narrative”? I’d like to know because I’m honestly not understanding what she means.
But more to my point – exactly what, Ms Saraiya, would you have done differently if you were out in the field as a reporter... on the anchor desk... or running one of the networks providing the coverage? I’m asking for specific thoughts on how your coverage of this horrific live event would have been different if you were actually driving the car rather than writing about it from the backseat of said automobile.
And exactly what would you have changed in your "narrative" that would be different than the “convenient narrative” you acuse all the media outlets of somehow authoring together?
2 You’re damn if you do... and damn if you don’t when it comes to your job as a journalist. At least that is how it can feel when reading something like Ms. Saraiya’s article and you're one of the participants in the media coverage.
Weirdly, Ms. Saraiya was not able to point to one specific wrong action by any journalist, or any particular network covering this tragic event. And yet her entire article is written within the context that the media screwed up again.
I believe there is a responsibility by a journalist covering live news events to gather the facts, not sensationlize what is known, and not jump to any conclusions about what is not known.
In the context outlined above, coverage of today’s tragic event was actually solid, without any glaring ethical mistakes.
Apparently that was not enough for Ms. Saraiya. She needed to write her article for Variety and find something… something wrong. So she writes, “some networks abruptly drop… coverage mid-stream.” Again, never mind that she doesn’t actually call out any specific network to task (which is a big reveal of a larger agenda she has in mind in writing her article). In an age where news is covered 60/24/7 on the Internet to anyone seeking more, deeper, latest; it's a mystery that Ms. Saraiya, a professional TV critic, would expect any of the TV networks not to move on.
For the record, I’m politically moderate in my general views, but hardcore liberal on moral issues such as gay rights.
So I feel like a member of the choir calling out someone singing off tune.
But I’m also an ex-TV journalist who has had plenty of experience covering live events for broadcast news.
It’s great when people/audience/professional TV critics offer thoughtful responses to how news coverage can be better.
With that said, TV critics have an ethical responsibility as well – to offer unbiased insight… sans any hidden political agenda.
Ms. Saraiya shouldn take out her frustrations and pain about the moral state of the country and how the news media can better service her political/moral agenda. And she shouldn't expect readers to swallow her words believing they have originated from an objective journalistic space.
Her unsupported article today actually gives people, like Sarah Palin, justification for claiming there is a liberal media bias.