“Click Bait” at The Kicker – Covering Manchester

The Kicker: The media’s model for covering terrorist attacks is broken by Pete Vernon.

From the webpage:

ON THE LATEST EPISODE of The Kicker, we run through some of the week’s biggest media stories, including a ratings leaderboard shakeup for cable news, a spurious conspiracy that consumed the right-wing media universe, and a new study that says–surprise–journalists drink too much caffeine and alcohol. Then, we move on to the media coverage of the terrorist attack in Manchester, and tackle why we think the industry’s model for covering terror attacks is broken. Finally, CJR’s David Uberti interviews Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of Mother Jones. They discuss the magazine’s novel approach to funding its political coverage as well as the role Mother Jones played in breaking the Trump-Russia story.

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The podcast.

Leading with the promise of The media’s model for covering terrorist attacks is broken, I listened to The Kicker today.

If you like podcasts, you will like The Kicker, but it illustrates for me the difficulties associated with podcasts.

First, the podcast covered five separate stories in a little over thirty minutes. Ranging from cable news ratings, Seth Rich and fake news, the drinking habits of journalists, the media model for terrorist coverage (the story of interest to me), and the role of Mother Jones in the continuing From Russia With Love connection to Donald Trump.

As “click bait” for the podcast, the media reporting on terrorism segment starts at approximately 8:20 and ends at approximately 16:50, some 8 minutes and 30 seconds of coverage, much shorter than the account concerning Mother Jones (16:49 – 31:14).

Second, what discussion occurred, included insights such as “…breaking news rooms, larger news rooms, don’t have the privilege of deciding whether to cover a story…?” To be fair, that was followed by discussions of “how to cover stories,” the use of raw/unexplained user video, and the appropriateness of experts discussing politics immediately following such events.

The point that got dropped in the podcast was Christie Chisholm‘s remark:

…breaking news rooms, larger news rooms, don’t have the privilege of deciding whether to cover a story…

Why so?

I may be reading entirely too much into Christie’s comment, but it implies that some news rooms must fill N minutes of coverage on breaking events, whether there is meaningful content to be delivered or not. Yes?

If that is the case, that coverage of breaking events requires wall-to-wall coverage for N minutes, then raw, unexplained video, expert opinions with no facts, reporters asking for each others reactions, the spontaneous speculation and condemnations, become easily explainable.

There is too little content and too much media time available to cover it.

Building on Christie’s insight, The Kicker could have created a timeline of “facts” with regard to the explosion in Manchester as a way to illustrate when facts became known about the explosion and contrast that with the drone of factless coverage of the event.

That would have made a rocking podcast and a pointed one at that.

PS: The podcast did discuss other issues with media coverage of Manchester but the lack of depth and time prevented substantive analysis or proposals. Media coverage of terrorist events certainly merits extended treatment by podcast or otherwise.

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