When not to cover breaking news.

While reading through the New York Times online yesterday, I found an interesting article written by David Carr dealing the issue of whether or not media outlets should cover big stories outside of its specific spots. The online news organization the article is written about, the Texas Tribune, is located just 90 miles away from Fort Hood, Texas where 13 people were killed in a shooting on a military base earlier this week. According to Carr, the Texas Tribune didn’t relish the chance to cover a big story so close to home, like most media outlets, but focused most of it’s coverage on political issues such a state representative who switched parties.
Their reasoning? The news organization was created to cover “politics and policy of the Texas State government.” The shooting at Fort Hood, however big of news it is, doesn’t fit into that category, thus they opted to cover other topics that did, even if they were seemingly less interesting.
I think not covering the shooting, though it would be hard not to do, was a good decision by the Texas Tribune. When a newspaper or magazine is dedicated to covering a specific topic or angle, the best thing to do is to stay true to that focus, even if it means passing up a huge story like the Fort Hood shooting. Readers of the Texas Tribune most likely know they are there to cover politics, and expect them to be consistent in that coverage. Readers will go to CNN, New York Times, or a local paper for coverage of an event such as the shootings, but they go to the Texas Tribune when they are specifically looking for news about Texas politics. Using time and resources to cover stories outside that spectrum would be a letdown for their readers and wouldn’t allow the organization to give the best coverage possible on the events they are supposed to be covering. It’s not easy for a reporter to miss an covering something like the shooting at Fort Worth, as it’s a great opportunity for the specific reporter, and, though it may be in a reporter’s best interest to cover it, it wouldn’t be in the best interest for a news outlet like the Texas Tribune.
The Texas Tribune has another reason it should not have devoted time and resources to covering the shooting. The Tribune is a non-profit news organization and is mostly sustained by private donors. These donors know that the Tribune dedicates its coverage to politics when they started giving money. That is what they are paying for the organization to cover, politics. Giving priority to the shooting would have been an irresponsible use of their donors money. The Texas Tribune’s decision to not give coverage to the Fort Hood shootings may not have been an easy decision, but it was the right one.

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