ASNE To Wires: Enough, Already! p. 45

By: MARK FITZGERALD WIRE SERVICES AND supplemental news services provide a comprehensive ? indeed, almost overwhelmingly voluminous ? report, but with room for more insights and imagination, concludes a subjective study by the American Society of Newspaper Editor's Newspaper Content Committee.
Committee chairman Howard C. Weaver said one editor's comment made after reading a day's coverage of the Atlanta Olympics was a neat summary of the study's results: "The news on this particular day was covered like a blanket . . . . The feature that stands out the most when you put all the news services together is the fundamental news coverage . . . . The disappointment was not so much what [was] included as what wasn't. As a reader I found myself thirsty for stories that explained the dynamics . . . [and] provided real insights."
This was the first project undertaken by Newspaper Content Committee, which was created by immediate past President Robert H. Giles, editor and publisher of the Detroit News. About a dozen editors surveyed the coverage of the Atlanta Olympics, a late fall week of the 1996 presidential campaign and coverage of television and personalities, as provided by the Associated Press; Gannett News Service; Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services; Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service; New York Times News Service and Reuters.
There was no pretense of scientific accuracy to the study, noted Weaver, editorial page editor at the Sacramento Bee.
"The survey sought subjective evaluations because we thought no other method offered a similar chance to make qualitative judgments about the kind of content American editors have with which to build their newspapers ? and that's the issue the committee most wanted to engage," Weaver wrote in the study.
One clear result: Editors have plenty ? almost too much ? of material to work with.
"One of the chief impediments to finding and using the best stories is the sheer bulk of material," the study said.
Much of it is duplicative, sometimes necessarily so, the study noted.
"I didn't count them, but I guess there were 48,328 stories about Kerri Strug's vault," said one committee member, who was assigned to monitor coverage for the day the U.S. gymnastics team won a gold medal.
Some editors found enough good material to justify the great volume of coverage. But others quoted
in the study said the bulk was mostly just bulk.
"The longer I read, though, the more struck I was by how similar so many of the stories were," one editor said. "I came away believing there was room for more imagination and variety."
Editors were often critical of writing style, as well.
One typical comment: "You could find many stories that reached for the first clich? the writer could think of."
Editors were most pleased with the coverage during the presidential campaign, which they seemed to agree had produced many ? though not enough ? examples of substantial reporting plus enterprise and initiative.
The committee did not compare services, noting that "among our volunteers, some editors criticized as subjective stories that another had picked as lively and intriguing."
In general, the committee of editors concluded, the sheer volume of wire and supplemental news service copy demands, well, an editor.
"There is no substitute for positioning skillful gatekeepers on the wire desk and giving them the time and opportunity to sort, sift and select," the study said.
"It's an investment with a near guaranteed pay-off: Somewhere in that blizzard of copy is a story that will meet your needs far better than the piece that might get chosen reflexively by a harried slot person with no time and no mandate to do better."
? Web Site:http://www.
?copyright Editor & Publisher- April 26, 1997.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here