A nice debate this morning in our newsroom as we kicked around the story everyone says they don't want to hear -- but perk up when it comes on anyway.
What to do about O.J.? He's being arraigned in about an hour (11:00 a.m. eastern, first thing Vegas time) on a host of charges including kidnapping for that Palace Station robbery.
Was it at gunpoint? Was the stuff really his? Should he go to jail because he used bad language in the supposed heist? How the heck did someone get away with recording the whole thing anyway? Do you really care -- or more importantly, will you really ignore it?
These discussions are going on in newsrooms all over the nation now, especially radio and TV stations with plenty of live coverage available. We will be carrying ABC Radio's coverage, expected to last about 10 minutes max, on 1590 WAKR and will also have streaming video on AkronNewsNow. Most of the folks here in our newsroom were conflicted, some downright disgusted over breaking into our regular music program for the live coverage.
In fact, the person with the strongest "no" is Marcy Pappafava -- ironically the one who will be anchoring the 11:00 news on WAKR, now with the added duty of monitoring the network and joining the coverage during her newscast. Just what qualifies a story for breaking into program, she opines? If Bill Clinton were taking his posse to a casino to get political memorabilia it would be a story worth coverage because he was elected, she felt, and a former President. O.J.'s just a dumb criminal, she says (not alot of disagreement on that point) and this doesn't meet the standard we've set with breaking news on wars, political upheaval, AMBER Alerts, major traffic problems and severe weather. Chuck Collins weighed in earlier and feels it isn't worth the live coverage.
Flip side came from Ray Horner, who admits it's not world-changing but this is something everyone is following even if they won't say it. Isn't it our responsibility to report what people are interested in keeping track of, regardless of our personal feelings? Larry States and Tina Kaufmann held similar conflicts; Tina notes that if people wanted to know that bad they'd watch it on TV.
Oddly enough that's the point I considered the tipping point. Have to make a decision one way or the other, I favor bringing the coverage to listeners who aren't able to watch it on TV -- it is a breaking story with great interest.
Most of the time it is the media's job to judge what stories and how much will fit into limited time and space. Newspapers, for example, haven't had to worry about live coverage but they do now with websites; broadcasters have 60-seconds in 60-minute intervals for each 24-hour period. Even on the web there's only so much space on the home page or section front to direct your attention. We strive to make sure it is the important stories you need to see that rise "above the fold" or "in the A block" but sometimes it isn't for us to judge whether a story is deserving.
Ultimately you are the judge of what you hear, see and read -- even if the O.J. saga leaves us feeling a tad bit dirtier for the viewing.