Monday, February 20, 2012

The Trifecta!

This morning, one of the local TV’s (I don’t want to say which one, but the channel number is somewhere between 26 and 28) made my trifecta of media lunacy.  First, in a post two below this one, I talk about the “reporter” for Politico who thought the state flag of Wisconsin was a union banner; second, in the post directly below, I talk about ESPN using the word “chink” in a story about NBA phenom Jeremy Lin; and today – well, as my wife said, if the news director of this local station was watching the morning show and saw this story, his breakfast probably started coming back up.

First, a bit of background.  (If you know Teagan Marti's story, you can skip the next four paragraphs.)

If you’ve been around Madison for a couple years, you know the story of Teagan Marti, the teen girl from Florida who came to the Dells a year and a half ago to experience a thrill-ride she’d seen on TV.  When she got on the ride, things went horribly wrong, and Teagan ended up free-falling a hundred-plus feet to the concrete below because the net which was supposed to catch her was not in place when the operator dropped Teagan.

She was taken by Med-Flight to Madison, where the miracle workers at UW Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital worked diligently to save her life and give her the best chance to recover as much as possible from the horrible accident.  We saw the story unfold through local media reports for several months, and, as Meagan’s mom told the crowd Saturday night at Monona Terrace for the American Family Children’s Hospital gala, the family felt that “Madison had adopted them”, with the outpouring of love, care, support, and well-wishes the community showered on Meagan and her family while she underwent surgery after surgery and countless hours of therapy.

For those of you who don’t know, in the interest of disclosure, my wife is a Senior Public Affairs official with UW-Health, and she got to know the Marti family pretty well during the months they spent at Teagan’s side in Madison, before she was able to return to Florida to continue her re-hab.  At every milestone along the way, local media did an excellent job of covering the story, following both the story about Teagan’s uphill battle to recover as much as possible from the horrible injuries to her young body, and the story about the thrill-ride operator and why such a horrible thing happened.

As a highlight of this past Saturday-night's gala, the crowd of over a thousand donors and supporters of the Children’s Hospital at the gala were amazed when Teagan and her mom took to the stage to thank the people of Madison for their love and support.  Teagan stunned the crowd by walking, by herself, with the help of a walker, across the stage to the lectern.  And this morning, Teagan and her mom are holding a news conference with the UW-Health people to announce plans for expansion to the Children’s Hospital.

So, now, finally, to the punch-line of the trifecta.  On their Sunday newscasts, all the local TV news stations ran stories about how Teagan had overcome huge odds and is now able to walk, and all showed video of the capper to Saturday night’s gala, with Teagan walking across the stage.  This morning, a reporter for the TV station referenced above, a reporter who’s been in Madison – oh, a couple months or so – gave a live “news” report about the horrible accident at the Dells a year and a half ago, and – irony of ironies- as video of Teagan walking across the stage Saturday night is on the screen – this reporterette said “Teagan, who breathes through a tube and is able to communicate by blinking her eyes…”

Oops.   Copied one sentence too many from a report the station did a year and a half ago.

The point I’ve tried to make in the two prior posts, and am trying to make again in this one, is that incredibly stupid mistakes like this are happening far too often in national and local media.  There’s far too little supervision of the content that makes it on the air or on the internet.  Young reporters make mistakes, and that’s why they have to be supervised.

What it means is that the quality of what’s being billed as news is in decline for lack of supervision and training.  Nobody was really hurt by the stupid mistake this young reporter made this morning, except perhaps Teagan and her mom, if they were watching; and, the credibility of the TV station takes a small hit.

I've said many times radio is dying the death of a thousand cuts; and news in general seems to be headed in the same direction.  And we, the audience, are the losers.


  1. Just . . . wow. What kind of a mistake would a young reporter have to make to get fired? That seems like a pretty big one, given that the words out of her mouth are contradicted by the image on the screen and should have made her question what she was saying. Supervision might *help*, but so would basic competence, which ought to come first.

  2. JB - "basic competence" = "yes" to the question "will you take this job for $22K/yr?"....a job an experienced reporter, who was making $38K/yr left, to make $65K/yr doing PR for the state or some private company. (Or, as in the recent case of another local TV news person, leave a TV job that paid around $40K/yr to work in communications for the Walker administration at $85K/yr.)

  3. Names of those who left for those increased incomes would make interesting reading!

    1. And, Bob, it would be a LONG list, including my wife, Joel DeSpain, Katy Sai, Jeff Lenzen, John Karcher, Linda Eggert, Dana Brueck, and the names of many, many other highly talented and experienced people you used to see on TV in Madison.

  4. That's a failure that follows the entire structure of the news operation. We used to call them copy editors, and the best ones were old and cranky and smoked Camels and knew that Midvale was a boulevard and not an avenue. I repeat myself: If you treat your readers like idiots, you get idiots for readers. Eventually, they get elected to something.

    1. Amen, George. Our mutual friend Bill Wineke was asked by a reporter a while back if he enjoyed the "freedom" of working without an editor at YourNews (R.I.P.) and C3K, and Bill said "NO! I NEED an editor!". The editor(s) at my "day job" catch plenty of my mistakes.