How not to cover a fire... the KTVB example
Boise had a devastating fire on Monday evening. When all is said and done a woman died, ten houses were destroyed and many more damaged. The Idaho Statesman has very good coverage. This post is not, however, about the fire but is about the coverage of the fire. Lacking a TiVo in our current setup I wasn't able to do a comparison between the different networks. As such this is then a critique of the coverage done by KTVB. One word sums it up.
However stopping there wouldn't do this story justice. At the same time KTVB is producing content that is embarrassingly bad they are bragging about it not just on the air but on Twitter as well. More about that in a bit.
Let us start at the beginning, just after the fire raced into a southwest Boise subdivision. Within an hour of the fire hitting the houses KTVB broke into regular programming with the breaking news. I watched the next hour or so of coverage. In that time viewers learned:
- There was a fire in Southeast Boise
- Some houses were burning and others threatened
- The fire started quickly
- Emergency vehicles were responding
- The names of some of the streets involved
That's really stretching it. In fact the news content of the first hour could have fit into a well-written Tweet. Instead we were treated to hours of poor video of a house in the distance burning. In addition to spending a few minutes with one of the people whose house was burning we also got a lot of hand-wringing and newscasters talking about seeing the fire on their way to work. Oh and a lot of aimless banter. At one point they acknowledged that callers were asking them to continue airing the game-show but that with this news they weren't going to. This was one of the first mistakes. In the 90-minutes of KTVB coverage I've watched there has not been a single graphic showing where the affected area is. While a historic event was being covered by at least a half-dozen other networks, KTVB kept saying "Fire.... bad... driving to work... and so on" with nothing that really could be called news.
Tonight KTVB did some of their newscasts from the burn area. I caught the late evening news on the replay on 24-7. Oh wait we should talk about that. See KTVB has a second channel which they constantly advertise you can get however you get your signal. Antenna, cable or satellite viewers have access to the channel. So while KTVB could have easily used a scrolling message or a short newsbreak to direct people to the other channel they did no such thing. Anyway back to tonight's show. It was filled with gaffes and horrific reportage. Seemingly the whole point was to show they could do the show in the burn area and to brag about their online coverage.
Cross-promotion is one, annoying thing, but bragging about how many hits you got last night in the middle of the evening news is just tacky. Sad thing is they had already been called out earlier in the day for their poor choice of words or stories in this area. Enter the Twitter factor.
In an effort to prove something about the lack of understanding KTVB posted a message saying "We love rocking the house during breaking news. Can ya tell?" Yup your house might be burned down but we're rocking ours. And when called out in a tweet by an employee of the local newspaper they replied, "point well taken. How about 'we love providing the most complete and compelling coverage we can?'"
If that's the best they have then it is a really sad day for local news. Meanwhile while KTVB continues the conversation with tweets like "no glodting intended - pointing out the volume and detail of our service" and news stories on the air about how many hits their website got during a fire, the aforementioned local newspaper posted a series of tweets covering an escaped prisoner being captured and an accident having an effect on the evening commute. Perhaps the folks at KTVB will visit the daily paper and take some lessons on determining what makes a news story.
Oh and maybe just maybe, they'll get a graphic that shows the area or maybe that's not an important "detail".