Writings and observations

televisionAs indicated earlier, we’re taking a look at the content of two news reports, following up on the description on Blue Oregon of a KOIN broadcast. We’re running through the stories as they appeared up to the first weather or sports segment. So here we go . . .

KPTV Fox 12, at 10. This is Portland’s second-ranking station, and this is an hour-long program, which would afford plenty of time for news of substance amid, ah, the rest. With two minor exceptions, it didn’t happen. The graphics, sound design, pacing, promotion of exclusivity and teasers for upcoming material closely resembled the tabloid shows (“Hard Copy” etc); the station has been said to be crime-heavy, and this evening’s broadcast certainly did nothing to counter that. Consider the long string of crime stories in this list of all the stories they ran, in order.

bullet First up, “a gruesome discovery at a place you may have watched” – human remains found at a rest stop at a rest stop near Wilsonville. Lots of fast-moving cameras; this is a large package story.

bullet Fox 12’s “Most Wanted” (this is a recurring feature) piece is a story about a “shooter wanted.” There was a short item about incident involved.

bullet Another “Most Wanted” piece about a child rapist, they report.

bullet A voice-over with grpahics warned us to watch out for a woman “reckless on the road”, a 28-year old woman.

bullet Another warning: “Violence and drug dealing is on the rise, but not where you think” – moving from Multnomah County to smaller communities. Lots of police lights flashing in the background behind talk about gang members.

bullet Benton High School “is in the middle of a lockdown” after a student was found with a gun.

bullet “Only on 12,” we are informed: A Vancouver car owner “watching the web” to try to recover his belongings from car theif, after his car was found by police. Another package story.

bullet An animal hoarding case in Clark County. This was followed by a commercial break. Eight crime/violence related stories in a row at the top of the broadcast. Then . . .

bullet Video of a boat accident near Garibaldi, and file footage; the story was one of the longest and emphasized deaths and accidents. Waves rolled a boat; the Coast Guard rescued four fishermen. (It’s a dangerous ocean out there, too.)

bullet A fire at a nursing home.

bullet Investigators are looking into a three-alarm firm in Oregon City.

bullet A water main break that has closed some roads.

bullet Police are looking for a road rage shooter: “Everyone is okay, but that shooter is still on the loose.”

bullet A Seattle robber is caught on tape.

bullet In Idaho, two dogs save a woman from her burning home. The family cat did not survive, we are informed. (The dog was not fingered.)

bullet A story that appeared in the Friday Oregonian (but reporting here was original): Portland’s Freightliner will hand out pink slips to workers in Oregon and more elsewhere.

bullet In High School Spotlight, a feature about student role-playing a historical figures.

bullet Promo: “Just living near a high traffic area can put your child at risk;” and an albino tiger cub in Asia. Then another commercial break.

bullet The story on how living near a busy road will put your child’s health at risk.

bullet A local business will become the first to manufacture streetcars for use around the country. Then another commercial break.

bullet A review of burger places in the region, mostly south of Portland, noting inspection report numbers. They offered numbers for about a half-dozen places.

That was it before the weather report. Later reports include a helicopter crash in California, an apartment fire in Chicago, a building collapse in Nashville, a damaged cargo ship near Hawaii, a very large traffic accident in Pennsylvania, bitter cold in Massachusetts, the Duke LaCrosse team returns to practice after the sexual harassment complaint of last year, a day care in Florida has put a child in a cold shower as punishment, a break in at a hair salon in California, a piece about a dummy in the front seat of a squad car as a decoy for slow drivers, a story about duckling sent through the mail.

Then around the world: A big marijuana burn in Mexico, Fidel Castro’s health (nothing new to report), a truck driver in Germany who wins a prize, a dog nurses tiger cubs in Brazil. Summing up, apparently, is what was most important around the world today.

Next, the nightly “meth watch” (yes, they do it every night, we gather) about an incident in Tigard, and “meth coffee.”

Most of the remainder was given over to celebrity news.

It was a nearly consistent run of fear, fear, and more fear – the world is awfully dangerous. (Is it any wonder so many people are willing to trade liberty for the illusion of protection?) Leavened only by animals, provided they’re babies and they’re cute. Of this whole long list of pieces, we’d count two as news that a viewer interested in being informed about their community – the Freightliner piece and the streetcar piece – and the rest . . . if you missed it, how would you be the poorer? More: You’d be better off for not being infused with an unnecessary agitation about the dangerous world around you.

KGW NBC 8, at 11. Portland’s top rated station, with a half-hour news program.

bullet First up, briefly, a “two alarm blaze” in northeast Salem, caused by fireworks. A couple of quick promos of upcoming stories (one about Freightliner), then . . .

bullet Then, cyclists are being attacked – Portland is now a place where cyclists are fearing for their safety.” It cites two women “attacked by a group of teenaged girls.” Reporter: “Shocking? Maybe not.” It’s dangerous for bicyclists, and cyclists are organizing.

bullet The Benson school lockdown after a student is found with a gun.

bullet A man hired a hit man to kill his wife; there’s an update on the case.

bullet A child rape arrest in Troutdale.

bullet Non-crime, non-violence appears for the first time: The Freightliner story, about layoffs in Portland and elsewhere. It’s a more substantial story than 12’s, getting into some of the background, why the layoffs are happening.

bullet Back to crime with a suspicious death at the Wilsonville rest stop.

bullet The coast fishing boat video appears here too, with a longer local report.

bullet Story about a former Trail Blazer in a custody battle over his son and possible child neglect. (That story, the program noted, will be in the Oregonian on Saturday.)

bullet Oregon Ironwork will be making streetcars.

bullet A phone bank about Outside Inn aims to raise money for medical services. Then string of promos, and a commercial break.

bullet National “news beyond the Northwest” – pieces about Iraq, the president and the Congress; a prison escape near Nashville.

bullet Another national piece, a few seconds with video on how demand for tuna and some other fish will drive up prices.

And then the weather segment.

Totaling up KGW, we had 12 pieces (not counting the promos and national wrap), about three-fourths about crime, violence and criminal-related risk. The Freightliner, streetcar and Outside Inn pieces were the exceptions.

The tone was less edgy than Fox 12’s, but the proportions were only a little less weighted to crime, accidents and related matters.

So . . . just how different from KOIN was the story selection on Portland’s two top stations? Comments welcome.

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televisionYou can understandably argue, as some did in response to Kari Chisholm’s Blue Oregon post on local TV news today, that focusing for criticism on Portland’s KOIN (Channel 6) is, as one put it, “shooting fish in a barrel.” The newsroom has been heavily destaffed and defunded since new ownership took over last year on what the local industry now knows as “Black Friday.”

The problem is, the list of stories he cites for a recent KOIN newscast – an endless litany of crime, reported crime, maybe there might’ve been a crime, someone thought there might be a crime, there wasn’t a crime here but here’s video of one 2,000 miles away – seemed out of the norm only for the surprising absence of auto accidents and house fires (again, if not local, then somewhere else). The problem he cites is real enough on local television news almost everywhere in this country and certainly across the Northwest: There’s very little news worth watching on local TV news. (The Chisholm post above and all the many comment attached are well worth the read.)

A sample comment (with which we have some sympathy): “How is it possible to have a well informed debate among the electorate when a huge percentage of eligible voters are being dumbed down by endless mindless drivel on local and national television? Granted it is everyone’s constitutional right to watch as many hours of Dukes of Hazard reruns as they choose (God Bless Daisy Duke!), but how can I be expected to sleep at night knowing that the future of my children and grandchildren will be determined by the same people that made ‘Dancing With the Stars 2’ the most watched ABC non-sports show in 5 years?”

We’d like to continue this discussion. Here’s what we’ll do: We’ll watch two other better-funded stations, second-place KPTV Fox 12, which airs local news at 10 p.m., and market leader KGW NBC 8, which airs at 11. (The earlier evening news is not scheduled to air on KGW owing to a Trail Blazers basketball game.) We’ll see what stories each covers before their main weather or sports break, whichever comes first. And compare those stories to the local lead stories in today’s and tomorrow’s Oregonian.

Back after this . . .

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There’s something likable in this as a matter of procedure, stance and politics, whether or not as policy: Announcement of a compromise over $43 million (to date) of Statehouse construction, in the dispute between Governor Butch Otter and leaders of the legislature.

The legislature was firmly committed to construction of two new floors of office and meeting space underneath the current basement floor. Otter, as he had said bluntly in his campaign last fall, was opposed.

Apparently, the deal struck involves one floor instead of two, and there may be other elements as well.

However that eventually looks, there is this: A governor and legislature in Idaho that had a disagreement and then – instead of getting huffy about it, as so typically has happened – they compromise.

What a concept. Here’s an idea that, whether either side realizes it at the moment, can make them both look good.

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