Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Compassionate journalism?
It’s always easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.
So to be fair to the media, we have to remember that when pilot Doug Demarest crashed his plane into a downtown office building, it was in the dark hours of the morning, and there was little to no information to go on.
In reviewing the news coverage there is much to be said about the professionalism and enterprise demonstrated by the Anchorage media in trying to keep the public informed in a timely manner.
However, once it became known the pilot crashed the plane into his wife’s office building, some of that restraint began to break down.
At least two news organizations sent reporters to the family home to try to get an interview. And that generated a debate inside and outside media circles about how far the press should go in pursuit of a story.
One of the news organizations defended its actions by calling it a “standard practice” for journalists to attempt to contact family members involved in personal tragedy.
I think that’s a true statement. But for me, it’s a question of the standards you apply to the practice.
For example, KTVA 11 News did not send a reporter to the door. They sent an e-mail, respecting the family’s privacy, and offering to make themselves available if and when the family felt like speaking.
To me, that showed both compassion, and good news judgment.
Listen, I’m the last person to be casting stones here. As a news director for nearly 20 years, I made more than my share of bad judgment calls. And I’ve sent reporters to knock on doors. It is often required.
I know what it’s like to work in a competitive news environment. But in the end, news editors have to balance the public’s right to know, against a family’s right to privacy.
And violating one just to get the other, is not always justified.
Capturing the grief of a widow with two children would not have added measurably to the story at that time. Justifying the door knock as a way to give the family an opportunity to speak is disingenuous. If the family feels a need to talk to a reporter, they’ll have plenty of opportunities.
Public figures, and those who put themselves in the public eye through their own actions should have little expectation of privacy.
But I think those who are victims of a tragedy not of their own making, have every reason to expect it.
That may not be standard practice in some newsrooms. But I think it should be… in every newsroom.
John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
The post Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Compassionate journalism? appeared first on KTVA 11.