Monday, March 17, 2014

Media as Malcontents

Undercover TV Reports on School Security Raise Concerns:

The three news reports followed the same format: Television reporters walked into schools with hidden cameras, under the premise of testing the security measures. Each time, the anchors provided a sobering assessment of the findings.

“One of the more depressing reports I’ve seen in a long time,” said Matt Lauer, the “Today” show host, after a report showed unsettling lapses in security. 

“What we uncovered may shock you,” Chuck Scarborough warned viewers of WNBC in New York.
Similarly, an anchor with the NBC affiliate in St. Louis prefaced a story by saying, “Some of it will disturb you.”
Incidentally, if you ever hear verbiage like that from local or morning news anchors, you can bet none of it will shock, disturb or alarm you. That language is simply a wolf-whistle for "don't turn the channel."

But I digress...
That’s what happened in suburban St. Louis in January when an employee of the news channel KSDK walked into Kirkwood High School unannounced and began to roam the hallways. After several minutes, he aroused the suspicion of the school’s office staff. 

Soon, the whole school was in lockdown. Police officers rushed to the scene, teachers turned off the lights and crowded students into the corners of their classrooms, and worried parents raced to check on their children.

The episodes often do not end smoothly. The Tampa reporter was detained, questioned and scolded by federal agents before being released. In Fargo, N.D., a correspondent who entered a school clandestinely in December was investigated for trespassing but avoided charges when her station agreed to keep her away from school-related news coverage for 90 days.
Some journalists contend that the news value of covert reporting outweighs the potential downsides. The story that was broadcast during the “Today” show in December served as a warning to parents that they should become aware of what is going on in their children’s schools, said Alexandra Wallace, senior vice president of NBC News. In that news package, a reporter visited five schools in the New York area and was able to get into one without being stopped by any security guards or school staff.

“I don’t know how you see what the truth is if you don’t go in that way,” Ms. Wallace said, referring to the hidden camera technique. “The moment you show up with a big camera, things look a lot better.”

Ms. Wallace, who has two school-age children, says she and other parents regularly think about school safety precautions. Indeed, news outlets often portray themselves as valuable members of the community in framing their undercover reports. Jeff Rossen, who reported the “Today” show piece, opened by saying that his daughter was in elementary school, “so this really hits home for me.”
For that reason alone, Rossen and the others should never have done the reports. What should be done with these reporters, frankly, is imprisonment. There's nothing in the 1st amendment that guarantees the right to break the law purposefully in order to "report" on the ease with which one can break the law. 

It's like robbing a bank to test out bank security and saying "I have a bank account here, so this really hits home for me." Or as the one outraged school superintendent put it, "Is it O.K. for them to set a fire and see how fast the fire department responds? It’s a safety issue. It’s not responsible. It’s the wrong way to do it.”

The only thing worse than the local news is the morning "news" programs on the big networks and cable networks. I'd rather put an ice pick through my eye than have to suffer another minute of Matt Lauer, Morning Joe or the the Fox & Friends dopes.

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