SJR: If I make an outlandish charge against local institutions with absolutely nothing to back it up, will the local media compete to give me a free forum to impugn their good names and provide a virtual solicitation for free legal help?
That's what the local media did in the days following the murder of St. Louis police officer Robert Stanze, when they queued up on the stoop of the home of the family of the suspected murderer to hear his mother report that police, sheriff's deputies and others had beaten her son, inflicting a "brain concussion, crushed jaw and broken cheekbone," though the hospital reported no such injuries.
Would it have been too much to ask for the salivating reporters to at least go to the hospital and see if such injuries were apparent (surely they would have loved to have video of a bruised and bandaged suspect) before fanning the flames of an already incendiary relationship between police and the black community?
D. J. Fone
SJR: Like castaways in some secret alliance, St. Louis CBS TV affiliate KMOV (Channel 4) voted legitimate news "off the island" this Wednesday night (Aug. 23) in order to frontload their 10 p.m. newscast with more coverage of the "Survivor" post-game show. After a token bulletin regarding severe storms--including possible tornadoes--that occupied the lead 45 seconds of the newscast, the next 10+ minutes were filled up with excerpts from the final broadcast of "Survivor," including two replays of the scene in which the winner was announced, interviews with patrons attending "Survivor" parties, and highlights from the post-"Survivor" interview show featuring CBS' own hunk of journalistic driftwood, Bryant Gumbel.
After a three-minute burst of local news and a commercial, viewers were invited to enter a contest to win tickets to meet Gervase, one of the "Survivor" contestants, and still later in the newscast, a tease was made for a "Survivor"-related report "ahead in sports." I switched it off at this point. What would be next? Kent Erhardt with the weather forecast for Palau?
I can't think of a more blatant example in recent years of how a (relatively) respected newscast has so thoroughly sold out--to ratings, to network whims, and to the preference of the masses for entertainment over information. KMOV abandoned its responsibility to its community, and in so doing sacrificed its credibility and reliability as a news provider.
St. Louis, MO
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|Publication:||St. Louis Journalism Review|
|Article Type:||Letter to the Editor|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2000|
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