Getting Judgmental In The Newsroom
I always get a chuckle when I hear people say they don’t follow the news because it’s ”filtered.” What they want, they declare, is “unfiltered” news.
Good luck with that.
Fact is, all the news you get, from whatever source, is “filtered.” When your wife comes back from the grocery store and tells you about the car accident she witnessed, everything she tells you is filtered through her perceptions, colored by her emotional reactions, affected by everything from the time of day to where she was standing in relation to the action. Someone else standing across the street could well give a very different account of that accident.
Likewise, the news you read or watch or listen to is “filtered” through the journalists and news organizations that produce it. And that can actually be a good thing. Immerse yourself in the no-holds-barred Bizarro World of certain internet news sites, and you begin to appreciate what trained professionals, using practiced news judgment tethered to a well-ingrained sense of journalistic ethics, can bring to your understanding of news events.
Here in the JPR newsroom, we take our cues from NPR and the approach to news that’s made NPR the premier broadcast news organization in the nation. It’s non-sensationalized, but engages your interest. It looks deeper than the headlines. It reveals the human dimensions in the events of the day. And it appeals to your better, more considered, more compassionate nature. That’s the bar NPR sets, and here at JPR we strive to clear it every day.
One of the ways this comes into play is how we decide which stories to cover. Geoffrey Riley and Charlotte Duren have their own process for deciding what guests and topics to feature on the Jefferson Exchange. Likewise, Barbara Dellenback has her approach to determining what to put in her hourly newscasts on Morning Edition (which she described in June’s Jefferson Monthly.)
Since I’m in charge of the features that go into the local/regional segments on Morning Edition, my focus is a bit different. In the features I report myself, as well as those I glean from our partner stations around the Pacific Northwest, I try to strike a balance between a number of competing values.
First of all, is it interesting? Does it reveal something new, valuable or important for JPR listeners? Will they care?
Then I decide how relevant the story might be to folks in our far-flung and diverse listening area. In general, I assume JPR listeners are intelligent, engaged and curious, not only about their hometown, but the greater Northwest. That’s crucial, because JPR can’t perform the service of your hometown daily newspaper. Our listening area extends from Mendocino to Eugene, and from the Pacific coast to somewhere in the Cascades. There are two states, parts of 20 counties and dozens of cities and towns that get our signal, not to mention the growing cohort of online listeners who stream our programming from anywhere on the planet. Given that scope and diversity, we don’t often focus on the goings-on of this city council or that school district, unless the story has wider significance (the recent Jackson and Josephine County GMO votes, for example, or Ashland’s proposed gun control ordinance).
Instead, we’ll air stories that speak to issues you care about, say a successful project that helps the homeless in Seattle, or an innovative environmental program in Portland, or a look at tribes pushing for salmon protection in the upper Columbia River. We’ll cover topics of statewide interest in Oregon or California, from same-sex marriage to medical marijuana to dealing with drought. We’ll also look at national or even international issues that impact our listeners, such as immigration or climate change, but through a Northwest lens.
We think you have a wide-ranging interest in the world around you. That’s why you listen to NPR. And here in the JPR newsroom, we’re doing our best to “filter” out the petty, the shallow, the inconsequential, so you can know more about the things in your world – and your region – that matter most to you.
JUST A NOTE: We’ve recently expanded our feature offerings on Morning Edition. Now, if you’re listening to one of our Classics and News stations, on many mornings you’ll hear a regional feature after the 6:30 NPR newscast. On Rhythm and News stations, we usually air features after the newscasts at 6:30, 7:30 and again at 8:30.
We’re just getting this ramped up and on some days you’ll still hear NPR reports in some of those slots, but as we grow into it, we’ll be bringing you more stories of interesting goings-on around the Northwest.