Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts December 2004

I Can't Win

After 16+ years in the news business, you think I would be immune to it by now.  But, I'm not.  I'm still taken aback, I guess, when viewers criticize a newscast that I produced.
Case in point, this past Friday.  The story of the day concerned a fire that destroyed two buildings in a community called Milton. The fire happened late Thursday night and burned into the early morning on Friday. Each building had businesses on the first floor, with apartments on top.  A total of 10 people lost just about everything in the fire - though no one was hurt.  Many of the borough's Christmas decorations were also stored in the buildings, and the place was supposed to host the Christmas party that night.
Well, we began airing reports on the fire on our morning newscast.  More at noon, 5, and 5:30.  By 6:00 pm, when the "newscast of record" airs, we were able to report the cause of the fire, and we had the story of one of the fire victims returning to the rubble to search for his wife's wedding dress. We also knew that the other victims were all staying with friends or relatives.
At 11, my newscast, the story became the planned holiday celebration.  It went on as scheduled, though it had been moved to a different location.  Many of the same volunteer firefighters that fought the fire that morning, took part in the celebration by carting Santa into town.  A triumph of the holiday spirit, right?  Worthy of a lead story, right?
Wrong, according to at least a couple people who submitted comments to Talkback.  They thought we should have focussed (again, I guess) on the people who lost everything in the fire (one of the posters knows some of the victims).  Thanks to a third poster who appreciated the story about the holiday party.
I can guarantee that if, at 11:00, we had AGAIN focussed on the victims (which I don't know that any of them were even around that night), that we would have had plenty of comments from people wondering why a) we were basically telling the same story we did at 6; and b) we ignored or gave short shrift to the community spirit.
If you lead a newscast with a story about crime or fire, or an accident, someone slams you for not doing enough "positive" stories about the community. If you lead with a story about a community coming together or someone doing a selfless act, then someone is bound to feel that you're ignoring "real" news in favor of fluff.  You can't win.
In this case, I think we did the right story and gave it it's proper place in the newscast.  I don't know why I let these people bother me.

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