Missile launch lost in media coverage


On Tuesday, North Korea fired a missile that exceeded any previous capabilities seen in similar missile tests. The missile flew longer and higher, which strikes a fear that they will soon be able to reach mainland United States with their weapons.

President Donald Trump had previously warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that the missile testing was in the face of world order and stability, even going as far as adding the country back to a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“It is a situation that we will handle,” said Trump after hearing about the missile launch, a surprisingly collected and measured response.

The missile test comes amid a chaotic time in American media, with numerous scandals garnering much of the airtime. NBC fired longtime Today show host Matt Lauer Wednesday morning following allegations of sexual misconduct. Other scandals, including those surrounding conduct of Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey have also dominated news cycles.

It has gotten to the point that I was totally unaware that this missile test, a sign that our country could potentially be at risk of an attack, even took place. In fact, I was prepared to blog about Lauer’s firing before happening to stumble over this headline buried at the bottom of the scroll on The New York Times’ website.

The article itself was well written, with the inclusion of a video to help readers understand the specifics of these missiles and what the tests actually mean. But the story has been virtually invisible on broadcast news that I’ve seen today. Hopefully, that will change as more details become available, but that remains to be seen.

Times takes deeper look at musicals


This morning, New York Times writer Michael Paulson released a lengthy piece about what he calls “’The Lion King’ Effect.” The work featured both article text and multimedia presentation, including extensive photographs and video, and gave readers a deeper look into the effects of the popular musical on the South African performers who have taken on roles in the signature production.

When I saw the story, I immediately clicked on it, because it was something different. The piece took something I was already familiar with and offered a new, deeper angle that pushed me to continue reading. Every other lead story on The New York Times’ landing page was about politics, or war, or scandal. This was unique and exciting: original content that I wasn’t going to find everywhere else.

The article itself was very well written. It was structured logically, with larger headings to sections that were comparable to the “Snow Fall” multimedia piece that was done by Times reporters several years ago. While this piece was much shorter, it still offered a variety of images to pair with the reading. Major characters in the story were shown in large, full-screen photographs in costume, and the pairing allowed readers to really identify with their personal stories, myself included.

I also enjoyed how the story immersed the reader in separate stories without convoluting them. Each personal story was distinctly separate from the others, with images, text and investigation of its own merit. This allowed me to stay focused on the story I was reading, without confusing details between the different people involved.

The video was a great addition to the story because it provided a visual representation of life backstage at one of “The Lion King” shows, which was essential to understanding the mindset that these performers have in that situation. All of the work that goes into the journey of these people, the success, the tragedies, the constant effort – everything leads to this moment of the makeup being applied, the curtain lifting, and the triumphant chant that opens the show.

Sex scandals, accusations continue


It has been a month filled with accusations of sexual misconduct for many high-profile individuals in the entertainment industry, with multiple scandals emerging. Victims seemed to gain the confidence and will to speak out about the abuses they endured, following a New York Times piece that followed the misconduct of Harvey Weinstein. The article cataloged his trail of abuses and paying off victims for decades, with clear supporting evidence. Weinstein was later removed from his own company, following a public scandal in the wake of the devastating story.

Next came an accusation against Kevin Spacey, star of Netflix’s breakout original series, House of Cards. Actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of assaulting him 31 years ago, when Rapp was only 14 years of age. Spacey denied any recollection of the alleged event, releasing an apology for what he says, “would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” Spacey went on to publicly come out as gay, vowing to live “honestly and openly” and to examine his behavior.

Netflix suspended the star from his show, ultimately deciding to suspend production of the show indefinitely. Since the initial report, multiple men have also come forward against Spacey. Just yesterday, Heather Unruh, a former TV news anchor in Boston, accused Spacey of assaulting her son in 2016, when he was 18.

In the most recent of the scandals, five women are accusing Louis C.K. of various separate incidents of sexual misconduct during the past several years. All of the allegations revolve around the comedian masturbating without their consent, whether over the phone or in person. C.K. or his publicist have not yet commented publicly on the issue, and this story has yet to fully develop.

News media outlets have done a good job covering these delicate issues, being careful with language choices so as not to paint an inaccurate picture of the allegations. The New York Times, in particular, has done an outstanding job keeping information straight and making sure to remain unbiased in the handling of these complex situations.

Manhattan attack leaves eight dead


Eight people were killed and 11 injured Tuesday in Manhattan after a driver ran them over in his pickup truck. The lone driver then ended the rampage after crashing into a school bus and shouting “Allahu akbar” as he ran around the road with a pellet gun and a paintball gun. He was later identified as 29-year-old Sayfullow Saipov, after being shot by police in the abdomen.

Investigations following the incident have revealed that Saipov spent weeks planning the attack and that it was tied to directives he received from the Islamic State. The instructions were to carry out an attack with a truck and leave a note behind that praised the group and its philosophies. Crime scene investigators found an assortment of knives around the truck, along with a note as described.

As the story has developed and more information has become available, news media outlets have done a good job handling and dispersing the material in a way that keeps details from becoming confusing. This is a sensitive topic and, in organizing information for readers, this has allowed for order in the face of chaos.

The New York Times, for example, has published several pieces on the attack, including angles relating to the potential motivation behind the attack, the state of affairs as they stand, and what is happening in the aftermath of the incident. The newspaper also published one story online that was simply a list of facts that “we know” and “we don’t know” at this point. In doing so, readers can quickly understand where the story is and how it is developing.

Other outlets, like CNN, placed an emphasis on the use of images and video to complement the written articles. A slideshow that is part of the latest CNN article allows readers to visualize with the current situation is like. There are also links to “related articles,” which give viewers a complete picture of what is happening and what the effects will be for the people of Manhattan and the United States at large.

Sen. Jeff Flake not seeking another term


U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who has long spoken out against President Trump and his actions, announced that he would not be seeking re-election for another term on Tuesday. His speech, which lasted 17 minutes on the Senate floor, was filled with powerful rhetoric aimed against Trump and his policies, and toward a call to action.

Flake addressed several issues that he has seen with the current state of the country, including a direct challenge to his fellow Senate Republicans.

“It is often said that children are watching,” he said. “Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?

Flake spoke at length about the principles of democracy, and how he believes the very nature of these ideals have been undermined by the current administration, quoting Lincoln, Madison and Roosevelt in an attempt to recall a past where things were different.

“We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” he said. “They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.”

Thanks in part to the fact that these Senate speeches are usually quite dull, the story has received much attention, but the explosion of eyes has been aided by the use of buzz words in the titles of stories, to make them pop.

“Jeff Flake Gave the Most Important Speech of 2017,” wrote CNN. All news outlets have also included links to the full transcript of the speech, and The New York Times included a video of the speech in its entirety. There were also links to related stories, including similar denunciations of the president’s policies by George W. Bush, John McCain and Bob Corker. Using these various online media strategies to keep viewers interested has also helped the story develop and has given readers across the country a deeper understanding of the importance of the speech and the issues with which it deals .

Trump blasted by widow of soldier


Donald Trump continued to make headlines this week after speaking on the phone with the widow of a soldier who was killed in action. Sgt. La David T. Johnson was one of four Americans killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4. As is customary for the commander-in-chief, Trump contacted Sgt. Johnson’s widow and spoke at length with her.

Listening to the call were Sgt. Johnson’s mother, and Democratic Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson of South Florida. Sgt. Johnson’s mother accused Trump of saying that he “knew what he signed up for,” and only referenced him as “your guy.” Trump denied these claims, insisting that the entire story was “fabricated” in pursuit of her politics.

Due to the emotional nature of the issue, it was a very complex story for the media to handle adequately, and in analyzing the work by news organizations, it is clear that decisions were handled with care. Maintaining impartiality was key, especially since the majority of the story rests solely on accusations. The New York Times, for example, made sure that the sources were the ones making the claims, while the narrative of the reporters was more focused on connecting the dots between them.

Balanced reporting, especially in the era of fake news and the constant attacks on the media by the Trump administration, is very important. The New York Times ran a piece about the issues other presidents have faced in reaching out to families in this similar situation. This allowed their organization to remain neutral, and to offer a look into the other side, and examine the complex issues involved through multiple perspectives.

On a much more humorous note, The Times chose to refer to the complex aftermath of the accusations as an “imbroglio” in the title of their online story, a word so incredibly articulate and yet completely obscure that I could not help but chuckle.

California wildfires continue to rage


Wine country in California has been engulfed in flames since Sunday night, leaving at least 17 people dead, hundreds more taken to the hospital with injuries and more than 2,000 buildings affected by the blaze.

The fires were spread in part by strong 50 m.p.h. winds that were present when the fire started. While they have since dissipated, they will likely resume as the week goes on, and the fire remains uncontained, according to officials. Based on the nature of the fire and the lack of control that firefighters have been able to establish, those numbers are sure to rise.

In analyzing the news coverage of the fires as the story develops, I notice two prominent characteristics that are worth discussing. The first is the personalization of the stories that are being written. The fires are the week’s biggest developing story at the moment, but readers are usually unsatisfied with the simple hard read of the facts. In using a softer lede by recounting a personal tale of tragedy, before getting into the colder facts about the fire, readers are naturally drawn into the story.

The New York Times, for example, started its story by introducing the reader to Matt Lenzi, who “hiked through smoke-choked vineyards and waded the Napa River to reach the home his father lived in for 53 years.”

This is a deeply personal story, which brings personal connection and life to an otherwise cold read about fire statistics that are likely to be updated in half an hour. Readers can connect to his experience and are motivated to keep reading. If they do, they’ll meet Maureen Grinnell, Pamela Taylor, James Harder and many more victims, who are able to offer an emotional perspective that makes reading the story a worthwhile endeavor.

The second element of the stories that I noticed is the use of new technologies to supplement the article and take advantage of the full capabilities of media today. The New York Times included drone footage of the fires, to give online readers a sense of the scale and devastation that the fires have caused.

CNN has included video from multiple sources, to allow readers a complex look at the fire from multiple points of view. Combined, these two techniques compel readers to continue reading and give them a complete experience of the events that are unfolding.

Las Vegas coverage evolves by hour


Over the past week, the world has reacted to the gruesome Las Vegas Massacre, cited as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. In its wake, there has also been intense scrutiny into the man behind the attack, Stephen Paddock, and his potential motives.

News coverage of the event has been very high, as expected due to the magnitude of the attacks and the public interest in seeing the story develop. A renewed battle for gun control has also been sparked, with social media biting on both sides of the controversial issue.

In following the story for several days, two things have stood out to me: how the information has changed so rapidly, and each news organization has approached putting the story together in a unique way.

First, there were two people dead. Then ten. Then 20, 30, 40. The number was different with each new article until the final toll was reached, with hundreds more injured. Information about the shooter was unknown, or even if there were more than one.

There were unconfirmed reports that ISIS had taken credit for the attacks. What we saw were news organizations trying to get information out to the public that craved them, without having enough time to properly verify it. In some cases, accurate information was unknown, and could only be speculated.

I also noticed that, while each organization was telling the same basic information, they had different ways of drawing in potential readers. The Washington Post highlighted that “new details have emerged,” while The New York Times chose to focus on the “cryptic clues” and the “vexing and terrifying mystery” behind Paddock’s motivation for the massacre.

Either way, the methods of differentiation made each story slightly different than the previous, ensuring that readers had to check out all of them to understand fully.

Trump, NFL clash on anthem protests


The battle of wills between the National Football League and President Donald Trump continues today, as week four of the NFL season kicks off tonight. This past week saw players, coaches and league officials from multiple organizations speak out and demonstrate acts of protest following a series of harsh comments from Trump.

The debacle began when, at a campaign rally, the president made several remarks about players who chose to kneel during the national anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” said Trump, basking in the applause of his supporters.

What was once a personal protest by a single player, Colin Kaepernick, against a rise in police brutality toward black suspects and offenders quickly became a first amendment issue, and many NFL players chose to unite against the president’s comments.

“To have the president trying to intimidate people — I wanted to send a message that I don’t condone that,” said Julius Thomas of the Miami Dolphins, who had remained standing during the anthem before this Sunday’s game. “I’m not O.K. with somebody trying to prevent someone from standing up for what they think is important.”

The protest took an especially powerful turn at the day’s match-up between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks, as both teams remained in the locker room during the singing of the anthem.

After the day’s games, the feud continued on social media, with players posting Instagram pictures and tweets, denouncing the president’s harsh words. Trump took to Twitter in his usual fashion, biting back: “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

Week four of the NFL season begins tonight, as the Green Bay Packers face off against the Chicago Bears. Debate has been high all week, and the lasting effects of these protests remain to be seen. The media have done a good job covering the story from all points of view, finding unbiased sources who agree and disagree with the protests, as well as players and officials to comment on what the president has been saying.

Media coverage of Harvey uneven


For the past few days, Hurricane Harvey has made its way over Texas and Louisiana, wreaking havoc in its path. The storm has been moving unusually slow in comparison to other hurricanes of the past, which has led to extensive flooding in Houston and other areas as the storm continues to develop. The way news organizations are covering the storm has been very interesting to study as a broadcast journalism student.

Organizations like The New York Times and CNN have done a great job updating online readers with content, including storm updates, footage, and personal stories of tragedy and heroism. While this is to be expected, it has been a great reflection of classroom conversations about media and content delivery.

There has been some public backlash to the intrusiveness of reporters, particularly in these disaster stories. Shoving a microphone into a grieving victim’s face can often be seen as overly aggressive, particularly in the aftermath of this chaos. While this behavior is a direct result of consumer demand, the ethics of doing so affect each reporter differently. Some reporters have taken a softer approach, offering aid to victims while also gathering their story, which has been very interesting.

One of my friends at UM is from Houston and he made an interesting point to me at dinner the other night. He was upset that news organizations, specifically on the broadcast side, haven’t done any stories about the recovery process. Personally, I think that the coverage up until this point has been about tracking the storm and the devastation, because the storm is still developing. Once the weather clears and the water begins to recede is when the recovery effort can truly begin, and that’s when those types of stories will be possible for news organizations to cover. Until then, the outlook for thousands appears bleak, and so do the stories.