Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reporting from the Field, Literally.

I think television journalism has officially lost the plot when it comes to reporting from the scene.  What, after all, is the point of reporting from the scene. It seems that the television networks think it is all about immediacy.  About being there.  About action.  About pretty backdrops vaguely suggestive of action when no action is actually accessible to the camera.

But it isn't.  Reporting from the field is about context.  And recent coverage of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others makes it clear that this is another thing entirely.

Field reporting is about telling us information in the setting where it makes the most sense and is the most true and coherent.  Thus, if you are telling us about how the shots were fired and how people responded, it might make sense to be at the scene of the shooting.  If you are talking about community grief and compassion you might stand in front of the spontaneous tributes of flowers and notes.

But if you are talking to a doctor about a procedure performed to release pressure on a victim's brain you should probably conduct that interview in an office or hospital room.  Not out in a grassy area with a small black table more suggestive of a magic trick than an operating room--where the doctor is left patting the skull symbolic of a fallen hero as if it is a pet rabbit. When you are talking about a possibly life saving surgery the most appropriate context may, in fact, be a room.

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