Friday, October 06, 2006

Apples and Oranges

Denny Herzog of the Daily Sentinel took issue with KJCT and reporter Jonathan Vigliotti's story on school safety that I mentioned in my post yesterday. His blog entry was rather uncomplimentary of the reporter and the station for the story idea and the manner in which it was carried out.

Denny did his job; he made me think about this.

He added that his staff would likely not recommend such a story idea, because "It serves no purpose and requires no particular journalistic skills (other than perhaps the ability to walk and carry a camera at the same time)." He also stated, "It seems to me our job is take a critical look at what they are doing and report on that."

I agree with Denny that such a story idea would be a bad fit for the Sentinel. The intent of the story was to show where the reporter was able to get to inside the building without a visitor's pass, and then to confront a district official with the "damning" evidence and elicit comment from him and a response from the viewing audience.

Would such a story play as well in print as it did on video? I don't think so. We're dealing with two vastly different forms of media, with significantly different ways of plying the trade. I think that the nature of the two businesses must also be taken into consideration when trying to deduce any purpose for doing this type of story.

I think that there were two underlying purposes in conducting the story. First, to capitalize on a timely, topical, legitimate concern, draw attention to any successes or failures, and get an
explanation from someone of authority. For Grand Junction TV news, this was quite a stretch, and a somewhat refreshing one to be honest. It showed initiative on the part of the reporter.
He wasn't concerned about "taking a critical look". That doesn't make for provocative images and snappy dialogue, not to mention the Geraldo-like approach to the post-entry interview.
Leave the details for the print media.

Second, Mr. Vigliotti is probably looking to get outta Dodge like the majority of his colleagues in the 187th largest TV market in the country, and has just added a juicy morsel to his resume' tape to do just that. With a few notable exceptions, the Grand Junction TV market is a training ground for new broadcast journalists who are here to get some practical experience and move on.

There are several excellent, thorough, professional reporters and anchors who have been here for several years, but to be upwardly mobile in the TV news biz means to move up in market size. That's where more viewing households, higher advertising rates based on those households, and higher salaries live, and since broadcast journalism is one of the lowest paying professions that typically requires a 4-year degree to get in the door, people new to the business are often eager to get the job, get the experience, and get out.

Denny also mentions that "School District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland was reportedly livid when he saw the KJCT report". My impression is that the bulk of the Sentinel's staff have made their homes here for a long time, and have to live and work with people like Mr. Kirtland every day. Doing stuff like this isn't good for business in the long run, because Mr. Kirtland and those like him will be inclined to sound Red Alert and bring Shields Up more often, like he did with the recent knife incident at Pear Park Elementary.

Putting people on the defensive just doesn't seem to be a good way to gather news if you are trying to "take a critical look" at processes and practices. I would think that fostering effective relationships is a key, and Denny knows this. That's why guerrilla journalism such as practiced by Mr. Vigliotti would be unwelcome in his shop.

I'm guessing that Mr. Vigliotti will succeed in finding a TV news job in a larger market within the next year. Either that or he will start producing political attack ads. The techniques used in his story and those ads are intended to achieve a temporary effect or gain, not lasting change or improvement. Just as when the true Fourth Estate excels in sweating the details, "taking critical looks", and enlightening citizens when the job is done well, we as a community will be better off for it.
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On a related note, closed captioning is an important part of my family's TV viewing, as my wife Jan is hearing impaired. KKCO's newscasts have been without closed captions for at least the last two nights. I sent an email to their website and received a prompt, polite reply from Jean Reynolds, their News Director. She explained that a converter had been hit by lightning, and was on order and would hopefully be replaced in a few days.

Thanks for your reply and explanation, Jean. I know it's been a rough 10 years at times between us, and I appreciate your efforts. Once it's back, maybe we can start talking about real-time captioning, OK?

1 comment:

Apachejew said...

Mr. Linko,

I am Frances Gaylord, a.k.a. "Apachejew".

If you think Kirkland's reaction was exaggerated, and overblown when caught with his pants down because of these recent incidents-
I'll give you a tip. If you happen to get involved in a conversation with these moles from District 51, (they live underground, and are blind in the light) talking about their school safety policies, mention my name, and ask them what happened when one of their students- my daughter- disappeared off the campus of Mt. Garfield Middle School, November 09, 2004.
This is a story I bet you haven't heard yet, although with the help of this wonderous machine, I have been making progress in trying to warn people that what is said of, and about this school district
IS ALL A LIE.

If you'd like to hear about what happened that day, and what's happened since that continues to fuel my bitterness, my anger, and my wrath, you may email me at apachejew@yahoo.com.
In this day, and age of Bush touting, "No Child Left Behind", Mesa Valley School District 51 just threw mine away.
And, I know that we are not the only ones that's suffered this kind of treatment. I am certain that there are many more children, and families that have been just as ignored, and neglected as we by this school system, and its administration.
The big difference is that I have been blessed with not having to work outside my home to manage a living like so many parents have to do.
I have something that's more valuable than anything today, and that is time.
I have a lot of time to pay attention.