Two reasons I’m struggling with news of Osama bin Laden’s death

I know bin Laden’s death is the big news of the day, but what about what’s happening here in Tuscaloosa? Do national media outlets under-inform their audience by putting all their eggs in the “bin Laden basket?”

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Even as I got a firsthand look today at some of the areas of town affected by the tornado that changed our West Alabama community forever,  I’ve been struggling with how to react to the media shift from the Tornado Aftermath to the bin Laden death as the BIG STORY.

Yes, it’s a lead story, but..

Yes, as a television producer, it’s a no-brainer.  Timeliness, impact, Bizarre, Unusual– all the news values that make this the BIG STORY of the day.   I think ABC, CBS and NBC were correct to field anchor their newscasts tonight from Ground Zero.

But, bodies are still being pulled from the rubble here in Tuscaloosa.  If you’re not in Tuscaloosa, can you really turn your attention away from what’s happening here in Alabama?

How Did You Learn About Osama bin Laden death?

The other issue is how we all learned about this particular story.   One of my newest Twitter followers sent me a direct message asking my advice about how to handle this story.  I was like “what, what are you talking about?”

Then, I preceded to go to my usual pecking order of news sites for verification that this was the big story– NYtimes.com, CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Washingtonpost.com

Turns out Stacey Higginbotham has outlined almost exactly my steps in a post last night even as the story was breaking.   Her “7 Stages of News in a Twitter and Facebook Era” just became required reading for my journalism students who will be taking basic news reporting from me next month.

As for the shift away from Tuscaloosa, a question I posed in an earlier post in regard to the national TV networks, I think I can accept that our tragedy here will continue for some time.   It may not be the lead story on the evening news, but it’s still news– a story that will be back on the national radar in the days, weeks, months and YES, YEARS to come.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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