Wick Communications

Live from the flood

In Media on May 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm

It’s official: standing in waist-deep floodwaters doesn’t make you a better journalist. It just makes you seem kind of silly. And it’s dangerous to boot.

The bulge in the mighty Mississippi continues to work its way south, like a rodent inside a water moccasin, and by now we’ve all seen the TV guys doing their standup routines while wearing waders and standing in the river’s path. And for years we’ve been entertained by weather guys standing in the middle of hurricanes.

They do it, obviously, because television is a visual medium and they are trying to bring back a money shot, something that shows the scope of the problem and also makes their correspondents look like swashbucklers.

You don’t need me to tell you that you don’t have to be a stuntman to work for a fine community newspaper. The first rule of covering events like the ongoing flood is to be safe. There is absolutely no reason to put yourself in harm’s way for a photo opportunity. I suppose you might have to get wet to get to a source or see something for yourself, but that’s qualitatively different than posing as the TV guys do. …

We may have reached a watershed moment (forgive the pun) for this particular kind of journalism, though I doubt it. The practice has taken some withering blasts from Jim Romenesko, journalism professor Barney McCoy and even Jon Stewart. (The photo montage above comes from McCoy’s blog.)

Maybe the men calling for the shots back in the truck will begin to have second thoughts if they are ridiculed enough.

Clay

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