What was missing aided inquest coverage


Hey heaven, thanks for the manna.

Stations should say some form of grace given that, just like that biblical Happy Meal, journalistic sustenance has come from the coroner's inquest into the Costco police shooting of Erik Scott.

Analyzed from a newscast perspective -- my apologies for seeming callous toward the tragedy itself -- the relentless reports from the Regional Justice Center, landing atop local broadcasts from early-morning recaps to late-night wrap-ups, provided stations with abundant stories that amounted to having their cake and stuffing their pie holes with it, too.

Attribute that, at least partially -- and ironically -- to what they didn't have: the awful act caught on camera.

Either nonexistent or simply, well, unavailable, the absence of Costco security footage of Scott fatally facing off with police officers in the Summerlin store in July saved stations the awesome temptation to air it. Relenting would've doubtless triggered viewer complaints and vociferous debate over showing the moment of Scott's death by gunfire, its evidentiary status in the inquest notwithstanding.

Newscasts' primary responsibility is to convey facts, but whether footage would've clarified events is unknowable.

With it, endless replays would eventually numb us all to the tragedy. Without it, stations were handed a guilt-free scenario: a day-in, day-out crime-story loop that fit the if-it-bleeds-it-leads mentality that newscasts favor, but with compelling storytelling subbing for ogling a man gunned down, justifiably or not. Yes, TV is a visual medium, but this forced a more absorbing narrative.

Unspooling serial-style like daytime drama as each eyewitness, cop and medical expert took the stand -- even in clipped, newscast excerpts -- it allowed viewers' imaginations to take over from witnesses recollecting and even re-creating what may or may not have been Scott aiming a gun at officers. Imagination, as often noted, inspires more powerful imagery in your head than actual images can before your eyes.

Enough intense audio-visual elements -- gunshots and screaming on the 911 tape, a photo of Scott's still-holstered gun, footage of customers fleeing the store into the parking lot -- remained to jolt it with an electric immediacy.

Cold as that seems with news such as this, TV is, at its core, about tell-me-a-story -- and this was superior storytelling.

Overall, volume of coverage on newscasts (and the county's CCTV on Cox Cable Channel 4) was reasonable, as was local stations funneling the ongoing proceedings through their subchannels without disrupting daytime programs -- and viewers' patience -- on main signals.

Reporters were mostly measured in their reporting, though Lauren Murphy of KVVU-TV, Channel 5 characterizing Scott's alleged depression and abuse of painkillers as his "dark side" was unfortunate. "Dark side" suggests an ominous flaw in one's nature. A man allegedly depressed and in pain, no matter how he acts out, is, more accurately, "troubled."

Applying his usual thick coating of melodramatic narration, Drew Karedes of KTNV-TV, Channel 13 added breathless emphasis to a story that needed none.

Drew, no offense, you're a fine reporter -- but the only one in town who could recite a lunch menu and make it sound like the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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

 

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