Decide for yourself if news coverage is right or excessive

Jan 11 2013 - 9:34pm

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So which came first -- the news or the news coverage?

Neither the question nor the answer is as simple as it may appear on the surface.

The question was sparked by a call this week from a long-time subscriber, wondering about the Ogden incident where police officers served a warrant on the wrong house, traumatizing an innocent family.

Family members and others showed up at the Ogden City Council meeting Tuesday night to ask for changes in the way the OPD operates.

Broadly speaking, what the caller wanted to know was whether widespread and continuing media coverage somehow overemphasized the incident.

In other words, is it news or simply the media glorifying what happened through extensive coverage?

The other part of his question was why these types of events seem to occur in Ogden. Is it reality or perception skewed by heavy coverage?

To answer the last first, I don't think that Ogden somehow is the focal point, the only place that these types of events occur. Certainly there have been several high-profile events in Ogden during the past year involving police actions

But there have also been high-profile police events in Davis County cities, and Box Elder County, too. Ogden isn't some type of magnet that magically draws high-profile incidents and the resultant media attention.

I've worked in cities and covered stories that rival, if not surpass, the horror element of those in Ogden.

In one city, a widely respected community member killed his six children because his wife insisted on a divorce. One Christmas Eve in the same community a robber shot and killed three people during a convenience store holdup.

There were others, in other places, but the point is Ogden isn't unique in being the scene of high-profile crime and police incidents.

One thing that is different between now and then is the Internet. Information about news events spreads to a much wider audience than simply through the local media.

That, goes, in part, to the question of when is enough coverage enough.

With all the competing news sources, there is the danger of information overload. As an example, I decided, personally, during the negotiations and drama over the fiscal cliff that I didn't want, or need, to read every print story, every political pundit's blog and watch continuing coverage on the TV news channels. Too much information. Too overwhelming.

The same principle applies in on-going coverage of high-profile local events.

Back to the original question, though -- does coverage overglamorize an event?

News organizations every day weigh the importance of events against each other in making decisions about what to cover and what to ignore.

Public interest is one of the parameters that figures into those decisions. I don't think anyone would disagree that the latest warrant incident with OPD has a high level of community interest. Just look at the turnout at the city council meeting to demand action.

But where do you draw the line between significant coverage that advances a story and coverage that is simply too much?

News events run their natural course. In time, the stories, and interest in them, die out and other things take their place.

Personally, I believe that too much coverage is in the eye of the beholder. What's too much for you may be woefully lacking for someone else.

And I'm sure, no matter what side you're on, that you won't be shy about letting us know what you think.

Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He can be reached at 801-625-4224 or at dgreiling@standard.net.

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