Waiting for news…

Paul Janensch wonders if saturation coverage of the beltway sniper is doing more harm than good by boosting the killer’s ego. In another article, Libby Copeland explores the difficulty of covering this situation:

It’s a tense little tango: the reporters asking questions they only half expect to be answered; the officials surely tired of dismissing questions they’ve dismissed before. Round and round the thing goes, fueled by speculation, by not knowing. And before their TV screens, radios and newspapers, the public asks the same questions. And waits

What do you do when you’re a reporter and you don’t have much news to give? If you’re slated for broadcast in an hour, maybe you, well, offer tips on how to be a good witness. When the cops turn to such handouts, speculates one regional television reporter, “it’s like they’re trying to find things to share with the media.”

“It’s getting hard to keep it interesting,” says Sonja Deaner, a TV reporter for Tribune Broadcasting. So far this morning, she says at 11 a.m., Tribune has broadcast to five or six stations, several times each. There is a lot of interest in this story, yet many days there’s so little for her to impart. “The stations are starting to ask us side issues: ‘Where are you standing? Are you safe?’ . . . Everyone wants to know ‘When are you going to get a description?’ Every station.”

Reporters have always played the waiting game. What makes this situation so difficult is the need to feed the 24/7 news monster even when nothing happens. Deaner’s quote is telling in this regard. There are few news events as interesting as this one right now. But it is not interesting every moment of every day. So TV has to manufacture something to say. And, sadly, newspapers follow this lead.