The Golden Rule for TV news


Recently I watched a newscast where there was an abrupt shift between a package covering different theories on what happened on flight 370 to another announcing that Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher were expecting twins.

I was a bit taken aback that the station had scheduled a story on a tragic event to precede such a perky report on celebrities. To me, it felt that by grouping the two so closely together Flight 370 had been belittled.

It was as though the disappearances and possible deaths of these people was just another human-interest story.

My viewing experience got me wondering how I would feel if a friend or family member of mine had been on that flight and how I would feel if I was watching that station. Surely the event would be devastating to me and to see it taken so lightly by others would be sickening.

So why then did the news station set their schedule up in this way?

The story itself was reported professionally. I don’t think the news station meant to be malicious.

What happened was a crime of carelessness.

In the news station’s defense, Flight 370 has been in the news for quit some time now and it is natural to be slightly desensitized after hearing about an event over and over, and for journalists, who hear and report about tragedies on a daily basis viewing tragedy from an unemotional place is all the more natural.

Still it is important for journalists to remember their audiences do not share that same nonchalant attitude toward death. Especially if their audience could include family members of those involved.

In the case I address now, Flight 370 could have been reported much more tastefully had the scheduling been amended. Yet journalists could avoid issues like this one all together by adopting the golden rule and report as they would like to be reported to.