I know I’ll catch some flak for what I’m about to write.
But, as a longtime viewer of NBC Nightly News, I had to point out a slight video flaw that dances dangerously close to an ethical line.
Television is a visual medium. It conveys emotion even in ways strong still images can’t.
But, sometimes in the effort to find the right video, we can stumble.
I think the NBC producers/editors stumbled tonight in their story about Reginald Epps, the Coaling, Ala. firefighter, whose tale of survival has been told by several other national media outlets.
Here’s the key point: Epps and his three sons and wife– were caught in an early morning tornado on Wednesday that rolled through Coaling, Ala. ( I watched on one of the Birmingham TV stations that caught the storm as it blew through downtown Tuscaloosa minutes later)
Unlike the tornado that claimed dozens of lives here in Tuscaloosa that came through late Wednesday afternoon, some have called the most-documented storm ever, the pre-dawn tornado that struck Coaling was NOT caught on tape in Coaling.
In Lester Holt’s piece tonight, the producers used “cover video” of the evening tornado in Tuscaloosa.
Isn’t that a bit misleading? In his narration, Holt described the Coaling tornado as the “first of many that day” as they showed Chris England’s famous video of the afternoon tornado.
As a middle school kid wanting to do TV news, I watched Lester Holt as a local anchor at WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York City. He’s a class act. At one time, Holt was known as “the most visible African-American newsman in broadcast television.” But, this video issue spoiled what could have been another one of his great examples of broadcast journalism.
In the haste to tell great stories when we need good video, we as broadcast journalists have to be especially careful that our images are always telling the WHOLE TRUTH.
Nightly News’ story showing Holt at Reginald’s bedside here in Tuscaloosa’s DCH Medical Center— one African American father to another African American father– was the best of the bunch. It tied together the morning and afternoon tornadoes and the experiences of those (both doctors and patients) who went through both storms.
It’s a shame that the video editing was a little sloppy.
Am I being nit-picky? Yes, probably so.
But, I download Nightly News in my iTunes feed almost every night. Elsewhere, I’ve praised the show’s producers when they’ve gotten it right.
Because of a poor video choice, this story wasn’t one of those times.