The Washington Post

Fox News suicide watch: An end to live car-chase coverage?

Howard Kurtz issues a call in light of Fox News’s airing the suicide of a motorist following a high-speed car chase on Friday afternoon:

Maybe it’s time for all television news — that includes you, local stations — to swear off live coverage of these incidents, whose news value is limited.

Swear off live car-chase coverage? Ouch — that could mean more work for daytime producers at Fox News.

For those who were tuned in to the entire sweep of Fox’s Friday news shows — as I was — the paucity of compelling and of-the-moment material was clear.

Earlier in the day, for instance, Megyn Kelly did a long interview with a laid-off coal miner Allen Black, who revealed at the end of the chat that he wouldn’t be supporting President Obama in November. Another segment explored an NAACP appeal to the United Nations for an investigation of U.S. voting laws. “Happening Now,” another daytime Fox program, took a look at the “news” that the economy would play a big role in the upcoming presidential election. Another segment profiled a cross-country bike ride to raise money for the children of fallen U.S. service personnel.

Such segments help to contextualize anchor Shepard Smith’s cheerleading for close coverage of the car chase in Arizona that was taking place during his program, “Studio B.” Following a decision to temporarily cut away from the developing drama, Smith told viewers, “If it were up to me, we’d stay with this.” As everyone now knows, Fox returned to the car chase with too much gusto.

Around-the-clock cable news is a basic fact of our media lives. It’s here, it’s controversial and it’s profitable. That’s not to say it’s necessary.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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