Decision to ignore, report story driven by self-interest


Reality -- not real reality, that other reality -- bites.

But should it sink its fangs into news?

Revisiting the eternal clash of News Biz versus Biz Biz, Vegas affiliates of Fox and NBC (Channels 5 and 3, respectively) retreated to the sidelines during the invasion of ABC's (Channel 13's) reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Recap: "Extreme" rumbled into town and demolished the home of the Cerda family last Friday, the house having threatened the health of their daughters, who suffer from combined immune deficiency disease. Rebuilt as a sparkly new crib, it was revealed and taped Tuesday for a prime-time outpouring of orchestrated emotion later.

Channel 13 coverage? Extensive to exhausting, as expected. Elsewhere? "We had other news to cover," says Channel 3 news director Deborah Clayton. "It's great for the community and these people, but there's a difference when it's a national TV show versus a grass-roots effort." Had NBC aired "Extreme," would stories have magically materialized? "You always want to tie into your programming."

As for Fox-5 news honcho Adam P. Bradshaw: "We wouldn't do it unless it was something (Fox) was involved in. If it's a traffic hassle, people can't get their kids to school, I'd consider it news. But they do movie shoots where they block off streets, too."

Laudable exception: Channel 8. "Our producers were all twittering about it," says news director Ron Comings. "Sometimes it doesn't matter what the network is. If it's a good story, it's a good story."

Acknowledgement of the "Extreme" event by all 13's competitors, however briefly, was deserved -- and denied by our Live-Local-Dig-Deeper keepers of news.

Granted: Reality TV generates news as artificial as half the breasts in Hollywood. But so do politicians' staged photo ops. Media resist covering rival media, bad news excepted. But ignoring legit good news amounts to shielding your ears and childishly yelling, "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!" (The CineVegas Film Festival warrants R-J attention despite sponsorship by competing Greenspun Media Group.)

News judgment is subjective: One editor's story is another's so-what? But the heart-tuggy trappings stations adore (children's health, efforts of volunteers) and vibrant visuals stations crave (bulldozing the house, crowds gawking) made this a story all would've otherwise stampeded toward, microphones throbbing and cameras blazing.

Resisting was especially unfortunate given that unlike, say, the local jaunt of NBC's "Biggest Loser" with its calculated voyeurism of desperate dieters in buffet hell, the "Extreme" adventure affected a Vegas neighborhood. Channel 8 got that.

Story driven by network self-interest? So were decisions to ignore it. Manufactured, entertainment-triggered "news"? Celebrity culture's inescapable byproduct. By that skewed news standard? Coverage-worthy.

That's just ... reality.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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