Spokane: When news breaks, not much happens

An incident occurred Saturday night that shows the impact of local news room cut backs.

The Incident

Around 9 pm on Saturday, there was a murder, followed by a suicide during the night. Police, sheriff’s deputies, State patrol, SWAT team equivalent, negotiators, K-9 teams, police reserves, an armored vehicle all arrived and the sheriff’s helicopter circled over head for hours. Nearby apartments were evacuated and streets were closed off much of the night. Dozens of officers were involved. This is a big deal in Spokane.

Local News Coverage

Let’s look at how this was covered by the news media in Spokane …

Saturday

  • 9 pm: Shooting occurs, police respond.
  • 11 pm: KXLY – zero coverage.
    11 pm: KHQ and KREM have short phone calls with their photographer on scene.
    11 pm: The Spokesman-Review tweets that a shooting occurred.
  • 12 Midnight: KHQ and KREM add six sentence stories to their web sites.
  • (Update: As added in a comment to this post, KHQ and KREM did “okay” – not great, but okay. See the comments for more information.)
Sunday

Was this an important story in Spokane? As of Monday, this was the #1 most viewed story at the local TV station web sites.

Does Spokane’s news media lack resources to cover urgent, breaking news outside of regular business hours?  Looks that way.  They may want to take an introspective look at how they could do better.

What impact will the lack of news resources have on a community in terms of losing coverage of urgent news events, local government initiatives, education, business activities, economic development, and projects pushed by local developers?

Update: One week later, here’s an example of a smaller deal that was reported and online quickly, rather than 18 hours later. Hopefully the event above led to some new ideas for covering timely news.

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8 Responses to Spokane: When news breaks, not much happens

  1. I disagree that stations were not covering it on Saturday night. Just because the official Twitter accounts and websites did not post an update, it did not mean that stations were not aware of it. Activity increased starting around 11 p.m. on associated station Twitter accounts with news employees. Example: https://twitter.com/#!/MelissaKXLY4/status/110228901518774272 It doesn’t say the time on it, but I can vouch it was around 11:30 p.m. when I read my Twitter stream in bed.

    As for why didn’t anyone post it on official accounts? Not everyone has the keys to the car? Just a thought but maybe news will shift toward individual efforts with pushing news forward instead of relying on the one account that hosts them all.

    On another note, more photogs and reporters with media outlets should make themselves comfortable with social media to connect with audiences sooner.

    Great blog, btw. First time commenting, but maybe I was just waiting for you to discuss Spokane media. 🙂

  2. It also appears that media was officially informed about the incident by the Sheriff’s Office at 10:52 p.m. Unless viewers called in earlier with a notification about the police activity, they may have not known. One resident tweeted about the police action near her (http://twitter.com/#!/LiaMarrazzo/status/110213273764376576), but I’m not sure if that was before or after the Sheriff Office’s email.

  3. inlandnw says:

    Thank you for the feedback. I agree that 2 of the 3 stations did “okay” on timeliness but KXLY was late on this one. The local paper needs to figure out how to do better than they did. And I also agree they need to give a lot more thought to their social media strategy and how to tie in to it for breaking news.

    I am adding some additional comments right here to give more background on the thinking of this blog post.

    Most news organizations, especially TV, have radio scanners going all the time. They know what’s going on! It is not a matter of whether the stations were aware of the incident – its whether they got information out to the public in a timely fashion. Sirens were wailing throughout the city and even in the Spokane Valley in the evening as resources converged on the incident.

    How quickly should local news report major incidents? Here are two examples from this weekend:

    That gives a hint as to the speed that the news media thinks it ought to respond to stories!

    Was the shooting a major incident? The next two days, the story was the #1 most viewed topic on 3 TV station web sites.

    KHQ and KREM had brief stories on their 11 pm news. KXLY missed it at 11. SR had a tweet out (saying something was happening somewhere) at about 11 pm. KHQ and KREM both had brief stories on line by midnight. They provided a little useful information to the public in a timely manner.

    The local paper, unfortunately, stumbled badly. They did not cover this in a timely manner. Their competitors across the state did better.

    I am sure the staff on Tuesday will take an introspective look at how they could have done this much better.

    The TV stations did “okay” – not great, but okay. But they could do better than they did. The local paper missed it and needs to figure out what went wrong.

    —————–
    How did I happen to stumble in to this story? I heard the sirens. Lots of them. And I was not near the incident.

    I channel flipped the TV news at 11 pm and that gave me the idea to look into the news cycle on this incident.

    Previously, I had known about some “incidents” in the area that did not get news coverage for a day or two. Which seemed strange.

  4. inlandnw says:

    Nicole and others – as I am sure you already know about this – Twitter can be a great source of quick updates on evolving situations, as it happens, from people right there. The tweets might conflict or be wrong, but they do paint a picture for those using Twitter. For readers who might not know, you can use http://search.twitter.com and search for “Spokane” or, like the above story, search for “Spokane shooting”, and see what people are saying.

  5. Caster Review says:

    Thank you…I like it

  6. inlandnw says:

    I just noticed the time on the comments here is in some other time zone than Spokane. We did not really discuss this at 3 and 4 am in the morning!

  7. hypo says:

    Interesting analysis, but kind of on the shallow side.
    This was, indeed, a tragic event, and worthy of coverage by Spokane news media.
    But that is where general consensus probably would begin to break apart.
    Beyond a doubt it was newsworthy and, in fact, all Spokane media did cover the story in different ways.
    But to call it the most important story of the day? That’s debatable, and I mean no disrespect to the victim or to those who are grieving her senseless loss.
    This was not, after all, a whodunnit. Nor was it a mysterious “could-that-have-been-me” caper. It was another grim reminder that drug abuse (including binge drinking) is dangerous and that jealousy remains one of the most powerful and destructive of human emotions. All of which we know because of the coverage provided by Spokane news outlets throughout the long, holiday weekend.
    Perhaps most curious, though, was this blog’s use of “page view” statistics to establish the story’s relative importance. That’s completely flawed.
    If page views determined importance, the most important news event in the history of the United States would be the guy in Western Washington who died having sex with a donkey a few years ago, which to this day remains the most digitally viewed news story of all time.
    Other “important” stories based on your page views measure would include debate over whether Lindsey Lohan got a new boob job, or if Kim Kardashian still looks great in skimpy bikini.
    Didn’t mean to rant — just to offer a perspective that while tragic and certainly worthy of coverage, reasonable people can disagree over how much coverage is enough.

  8. inlandnw says:

    We do disagree. Here’s a brief explanation as to why the news priorities seem odd.

    I live a very long way from the incident. But we heard the sirens, multiple times, going on for a long time. A huge emergency response was under way. Reasonable people, over a large area, might be curious as to what was happening. Right?

    And they might turn to the news media to find out?

    Why was the Ritzville Starbuck’s bomb threat worthy of coverage in 30 minutes? Was it really important that a small area in a small town an hour west of Spokane was temporarily evacuated? Yet a larger area, with an actual shooting, not a prank threat, was evacuated in Spokane with little comment, for a long time? (almost 18 hours in the case of the paper).

    The choice of news priorities is mysterious to the rest of us.

    For timely updates, it looks like Twitter and Facebook might be better choices for us than the official news sources.

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