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Most sensational not always most important

What is this fascination so many have with the macabre? The TVand Cable news networks love to play on it. Thus, the more gore themore detailed the news coverage.

Friday morning as I was getting ready for work and “Good MorningAmerica” was playing in the background, Charlie Gibson was givingnews promos over the latest news developments during the night. Twostories were the top stories of the morning.

The first was the revelation that ABC had exclusive coverage ofthe autopsy report in the Laci Peterson murder. The second item wasan important overnight agreement between Israeli and Palestineleaders – an agreement that may end recent tensions in thearea.

The Laci Peterson murder has been a tragic situation but hasturned into a media event since the networks needed to fill in theair time void left after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’sregime.

There’s little the public does not know about the murder of thisyoung, vibrant woman and her unborn child. We have been inundatedby news coverage and talk show discussion for weeks on end.

Over in the Middle East, well, they have been fighting since thebeginning of time, the Israelis and the Palestinians have beenshooting each other forever. So, what else is new?

The fact that we just completed a war in the region over many ofthe same issues does give credibility to the importance of anyagreement between the two sides, an agreement that could easeterrorist tensions is an important story.

Both are big news stories – one because of the shock factor, theother because it involves an important region of the world.

In the news business, an editor leads with the most importantstory. Editors make decisions based on experience as to what theybelieve viewers or readers want to know first.

In this day of mass media and short attention spans of thepublic, an the ever importance of ratings, the proper packaging ofnews is vital to success.

I listened to Charlie Gibson complete his promos and waited forthe details of top story – you can guess which one was the leadstory.

A few minutes into some of the most detailed gore of an autopsythat one can imagine, I turned off the TV – somehow those detailsand my breakfast just did not mix.

Several years ago, as a guest speaker to a group of youngjournalists at MUW, I cringed when another speaker – a female TVnews anchor – told the students that her simple news philosophywas, “if it bleeds, it leads.” I cringed because of my belief thatan editor’s job carries a bit more responsibility.

Since I finished my breakfast without “Good Morning America,” Idid miss the details of the important agreement between Israel andPalestine – not that it really matters to my daily life here inBrookhaven, but it does have some relevance on the terroristsituation around the world. However, thanks to ABC News, I can tellyou exact gruesome details of what happened five months ago to apoor murder victim in California.

If it bleeds, it leads.