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What’s news

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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  1. Aaron Weiss Aaron Weiss January 27, 2007

    Hi Randy,

    I’m the Senior Producer at KGW, responsible for the 11pm newscast.

    One note on your math: simply counting stories gives an incredibly skewed picture of what was in a newscast. Just as a newspaper measures stories in column inches, TV measures stories by duration.

    I’m quite glad that our story on the Freightliner layoffs was eight times longer than our 15-second blurbs on the child rape arrest or Wilsonville rest stop body. I think of that as proportionally appropriate coverage.

    The story on cyclists in North Portland may have been crime-related, but it’s much more a story about community involvement and how activists are looking to change things for the better — I don’t see anyone accusing Jonathan Maus of running a fear-mongering website over at BikePortland, and he’s run far more stories on cyclist safety than we have.

    We have a constant dialog at the station about how to cover crime — who it’s important to, why it’s important to them. (And yes, it is important to many people, particularly when it’s happening in their neighborhood.)

    Given that we can’t (yet) produce an individual newscast for every street in our viewing area, we make decisions every night about how much time to dedicate to each story. While the two-alarm blaze in Salem may not matter to you, it matters a great deal to folks 3 streets over who are wondering why half the fire department just drove by.

    So we endeavor to strike a balance, telling as many stories as well as we can in the limited time we have. It’s never a perfect process, and there’s no such thing as a perfect newscast, simply because our audience is so diverse. (I will confess to being tempted to produce a newscast just for political and media bloggers on some nights, but of course those bloggers are a tiny fraction of the audience.)

    I think of our 11 o’clock newscast as a sampler platter: we’re going to let you know what’s been going on since the early newscasts, give you a taste of what else happened today, a tidbit of what’s happening outside of the northwest, and maybe a little something light for dessert if there’s still room at the end.

    Given the time constraints of a half hour newscast, we’ll never reach the level of detail you can find on the web, and that’s fine — that’s why we have The broadcast product and the web product should complement each other, and I think we do a good job of that most days.

    Thanks for watching, and please keep the critiques coming. I’m happy to continue this conversation offline if you’d like. My email is aweiss [{a t}] kgw {[d o t]} com. (Sorry, I hate spambots.)

    -Aaron Weiss

    (One other nitpick: you missed the gist of the tuna story — it wasn’t that demand will drive up prices, it’s that demand has led to overfishing, and 50 nations have agreed on fishing limits, which will drive up prices by limiting supply.)

  2. Chuck Butcher Chuck Butcher January 27, 2007

    Absolutely steer clear of political coverage issues.

  3. BrianM BrianM January 29, 2007

    Say, isn’t there a lawsuit against the Portland-area stations about avoiding local political news coverage? I wonder if the KGW Senior Producer can speak to that?

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