Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When Ratings Get In The Way of Journalism: A Cautionary Tale Out Of Boise

And We're Not Talking About Larry Craig; "This American Life" Report Shows When "Exclusive" Stories Should be Excluded From a Newscast

"This American Life" may be one of public radio's darlings, but here in New York, we have to work a little harder to join in the love fest. WNYC airs it at 4 p.m. on Sundays, when you are likely to have other things to distract you besides appointment listening on the radio.
Sure, you can get the show on podcast, but you know how those have a way of piling up.
Fortunately, I found myself in the car last Sunday when Ira Glass & Co. unfurled their streams of consciousness.
Both segments are worth catching up to, but the one I'd especially recommend is, in Glass' parlance, Act 2, a 23-minute essay that recounts how Boise TV stations decided to cover -- or not cover -- a story about how a registered sex offender was working at a city ice rink refereeing kids' hockey games.
It sounded lurid, until some reporters dug a little deeper and found the story wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But that didn't stop one station, KIVI, desperate for ratings glory, from pulling out all stops to splash the story on its newscast and, in the process, letting sloppy packages get on the air when both reporters and their bosses should have known better.
The station's news director, Scott Picken, to his credit, consented to be interviewed. Good for him, even though he isn't portrayed in a flattering light and his decision to run as hard as he did with the story is dubious at best.
Picken claims on his blog that he has not heard the piece by Thanh Tan. It's time he did. Ditto for the rest of his staff.

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