How To Cover a Story Like Boston
Some of the best radio coverage of the events in Boston over the past week were provided by WBZ in Boston, 1010 WINS in New York and WTOP in Washington DC. With reporters on the ground and vast resources that dedicated news stations invest in, nearly around the clock coverage was being provided to address this rapidly changing event, from the bomb blasts to the chase for the suspects. WTOP Vice President of News and Programming Jim Farley has been in the position of supervising a news staff during a fluid major news story before, the DC Sniper. We spoke to Farley to get his view on covering big stories like these.
RI: Last week, CNN reported somebody was in custody. That turned out to be totally incorrect. How do you make sure your team avoids mistakes like this?
Jim Farley: We have a motto that everybody in the newsroom can tell you. It is, "First get it right, then get it fast." I have drummed into folks heads that the public doesn't remember who got a story first. Only those of us who are journalists care. We care because we keep score. The public doesn't. But, the public will always remember who got it wrong. So, our people, as competitive as they are, know that we would rather miss a story than get it wrong. So, we did not go with the story on Wednesday that a suspect was under arrest, that they had a suspect in custody. It turns out that not only did they not have a suspect in custody, they didn't have a suspect. They just identified two people that they wanted to talk to. That said, I would say there has been more good reporting than bad. This is just such an unbelievable story. If you wrote this as a novel, people would say it is far-fetched. This is an absolutely incredible story. We have been all over it, but in a responsible way. I put out a reminder yesterday to my troops. Two words we never use on the radio: rumor or speculation. We don't report rumors or speculate. We certainly ask questions. "Well, if they're from Chechnya, what might that mean?" It's more fascinating than any novel someone could write. That's why being in the news business is just so important.
RI: When something like that happens in your town, what's your goal?
Farley: What I told people during the DC sniper was that our job is to be the calm voice during troubled times. Get people the information they need in a calm, sensitive way. But, we were giving valuable tips from the police like if you are walking into a parking lot, zig zag. If you are gassing up your car, stand on the side of the pump away from the street. That was a really scary story. In 2001, we had 9/11, the bombings in New York City and the Pentagon, and the planes crashing into the Trade Centers, we had the DC sniper, and we had the anthrax attacks. Those anthrax attacks, I remind you, five people died and 17 others were affected. That was scary. My boss, Joel Oxley, and I remember it well. Nobody here wanted to touch the mail. So, he and I were handling all the mail with rubber gloves on, sorting the mail, and throwing out as much junk mail as we could. After 9/11, we got a really good voice coach, by the name of Dr. Ann Utterbach to come in. She gave a talk specifically on the topic "Calm Voices in Tough Times." While she was talking to the on-air people, the anchors and the reporters about what they had to do to take care of themselves during an event like this: hydrate, don't do too much caffeine, which is counter-intuitive to news guys, and get some relaxation. We brought in some masseuses and we were giving back massages during this. We were trying to de-stress, decompress people."
RI: Let's say a mistake as big as the one CNN happens on your staff. How do you deal with that?
Farley: We would apologize for it. We would day "We got the story wrong. We apologize for that." You have to admit your mistakes. Otherwise, you lose credibility. It takes years for an organization to build credibility. It takes just seconds to destroy that credibility.
(4/22/2013 9:20:48 PM) |
Get an erection, so Eric will shill for you and give you a hand-job!
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