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TV media gives sound bytes, newspapers give details

Read in your best TV news anchor voice - Tune in tonight on Channel Whatchamacallit

for just enough news from your community to confuse you and a superficial look at what is going on in your neck of the woods. We care about your neighborhood.

OK, so the local TV news stations don't exactly say that but sometimes it seems like they would be more honest if they did.

Not trying to pick on my fellow journalists because some broadcasters and stations do a great job, but I am often left dumfounded at what makes the nightly news broadcast and wondering what good it actually served for the communities watching.

My first gripe is that the TV stations often only show up when something bad happens. Someone gets tragically killed and the TV media will make the drive to Lawrence County in seconds flat. Do something positive in the community and you are lucky to get five seconds of airtime.

Then, when the cameras arrive and start to roll, they roll fast. Real fast. It is not uncommon for TV stations to spend 15 minutes at a 3-hour event, grab the closest person for comments and off they go. Working at a newspaper with daily deadlines, time constraints are understandable but TV media seems to just get enough to not really get anything at all.

What if newspaper reporters took the same approach? Readers would find our there was a meeting, someone said something about something else, and then on to the next thing.

And when it comes to choosing their on-camera interview subject, some TV reporters seem to have an innate "idiot detector." No matter how many people are at an event or in the room, the person who makes the evening news is the last person in the world most people would want representing the community.

The old clich\u00E9 that the "pen is mightier than the sword," may be true but the video camera beats them both. Too many times, I have seen someone shy away from any media attention at all from newspaper reporters. TV shows up, pops a camera in their face and the individual becomes the next Geraldo Rivera basking in the spotlight.

Notepads just don't seem to have that same effect.

Sadly, much of the viewing public is left thinking that the snippets of information they see on TV are representative of what truly happens, when it often it is not. TV tells people what happened, while newspapers try to tell readers what happened, what it means and what will happen tomorrow.

Do we always achieve that? Of course not. It is often said newspapers publish an imperfect product everyday.

The challenge is to strive for that nearly unattainable level of perfection each and every day. It may be the death of me, but we will keep trying.

We hope you tune in.

Michael Caldwell is the managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.