Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Local News

The local news here is leading off the past couple of days with bits about local people who are in Haiti (local student on a church group trip, safe) or were in Haiti at some point (local person volunteering with a church group). Then they do a network feed on Haitian people.

It's totally weird that the news thinks that what's most important about the Haitian earthquake tragedy is that local visitors were there.

Dear local news: really, sometimes people from the upper midwest are not the center of the universe.

Do other areas of the country do this? I don't remember this sort of thing at all in the local news when I lived elsewhere. (Then again, they didn't have daily coverage of the local HS football training, either.)


  1. It's common around here (western Massachusetts). Our local paper--actually quite good--ran an AP story on the quake and a story about local aid groups active in Haiti, plus people in the area with family there. I don't watch local TV news so I can't comment on that.

    I think a lot of local media outlets now presume that people who want national and international news get it from other sources, so they try to drive up traffic by emphasizing the local angle. It's like the old "Not Necessarily the News" segment where an announcer said something like, "Two hundred people were killed in a plane crash in Africa today--but it's not that bad; none of them were Americans."

  2. Anonymous4:49 PM

    Same here: our local (80,000 people in our very spread out "city") news found locals with very slim connections to Haiti to interview (previous tourists, or locals who work in emergency services or the National Guard who will not be sent there, but who may know about others who are going to Haiti) before basically repeating what NBC already covered, and then cutting to NBC midway through their hour broadcast.

    That's local news for ya.

  3. Yes, even in NYC. Our local news is shockingly provincial.

  4. Everyplace I've lived has done this... although, our local news is more about the folks who are both local and trying to help... so, at least the result might be financial support.

  5. At the time of Chernobyl, the newspaper in our town on the CT coast had 2 stories: First, on the kid who was in Kiev on a junior year abroad program (he was OK); and the second on why the nuclear power plant in the next town over was completely safe -- it could never happen here.

    So it happens elsewhere, and it's not dependent on the internet. It's just provincial.

  6. Our local TV news is doing this, too (our news comes out of the Norfolk, VA area, but we live in rural NC 50 miles away).

    There's been a lot of coverage of groups going to help with rescue efforts -- but we've also got a lot of Navy and Coast Guard personnel here.

    But still, yeah. It's always a little weird that local news tries to find the "local" connection to an international tragedy.

  7. I lived for a while in a small midwestern town, and always cracked up at the phenomenon you describe so well.

    I live in a small city now, not midwestern, but not usually thought of as a center of global exchange---but they don't really do that so much here, except as PhiloFac describes: what's being done here to help there.

  8. We got the interview with the local citizen who has been to Haiti with his church once -- that's how desperate Pork Smith is.

  9. Does anyone remember the Far Side cartoon featuring a bird reporter standing in front a crashed plane, holding a microphone in its wings, and the caption reads, "We think the name of the bird who was sucked into the plane's engine was Ralph Nimoy." Or something like that. I always think of that cartoon in situations like this.

    But what you're describing is what journalism students are taught in J-school: find the local angle. It's part of the larger phenomenon of assuming that your readers are all provincial ignoramuses who couldn't possibly care about something happening thousands of miles away unless some neighbor of theirs was involved. I abhor the whole practice. It's one reason why I subscribe to the NY Times (despite its own brand of provincialism) rather than any of the Utah papers...

  10. skinnyiain11:42 AM

    It's said that when the Titanic sank, the headline in the Aberdeen Press & Journal was 'Man from Aberdeenshire lost at sea'.
    I'm afraid it's endemic.