In the Loop

From one tragedy to another

Posted at 11:15 AM on August 7, 2007 by Jeff Horwich

So it goes in the news business: Six trapped miners trump a six-day-old bridge collapse. It was interesting today to see (and hear, on NPR) the headlines give way when another national calamity moved onto the radar. Regionally, the bridge story will spin out for months. Nationally, it is cooling -- and quickly.

How much coverage is "enough?" And when do you start letting other local news back into the process? It was interesting to note the difference between the local papers and us here at MPR, even the day after the collapse. In our regional newsroom, it was "all hands on deck" (literally, that's the phrase that was used). With very narrow exceptions, regional news coverage was all bridge-related and the reporters were all devoted to it.

The papers, on the other hand, never really let the collapse touch their "B" Sections in the first few days. Honestly, it felt a little odd to page through the paper: an A Section filled with deep reporting, huge photos, banner headlines; and then the B Section, reflecting a world of art fairs, petty crime, court verdicts, etc. -- where it was almost as if the collapse had never happened. Movie reviews, sports, lifestyle features...it all went on as usual.

Granted, there's a staff difference factoring in here between MPR and the papers (each paper still undoubtedly had more reporters working the bridge story at any given time, with plenty left over for the art fairs). Putting that aside, I'm still not sure which approach is better. Of course, the rest of the world goes on, even in the wake of a major catastrophe. How much of that should we continue to reflect in the news?

August 2007
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