OPINION: Media coverage of ‘fight’ calculated to sell newspapers and air time

By Malcolm McIntyre
Publisher

The “fight” at this weekend’s Wisconsin Little Ten conference wrestling meet at OHS was a horrible example of parents (or adults) gone bad. Criticism of those involved is warranted. Perhaps even legal action.

What is not called for is the media’s handling of incidents like this. What happened is a legitimate news story and it should be reported if doing so is consistent with a medium’s past and current role.

At OCON2DAY we don’t waste space on things like this. There are several reasons why. First, other media, including Milwaukee-area television stations, covered the incident. It is old news today.

Second, our priority is on promoting the good things that people do, not the bad. Ok, some may argue that our coverage of local government isn’t always optimistic or positive, but instead of telling you about this incident, we’re running more photos of the wonderful kids within Oconomowoc involved in sports.

Third, we don’t need to sell papers or build viewership so we can charge more for advertising. We don’t and won’t sensationalize.  When elements in the media champion the high road on issues and then sensationalize things like this, we’re disappointed.

We also know that often the story told is superficial and shallow. Because of pending deadlines, limited space/air time, or interest, what we get from them is often only part of the story.

For example, at OHS sporting events, there is a considerable security in place to ensure things like this rarely, if ever, happen. Despite what is happening on the court, field, or floor, there are  eyes watching what is happening in the stands. Nothing is fool-proof because it is impossible to predict stupidity, but the good folks at OHS, and most schools, do an excellent job preventing the vast majority of incidents, before they happen. Much of this takes place behind the scenes so we don’t see it. As it should. This doesn’t make the news, nor will it

Lost in the wake of a video showing what happened is the harm caused to the kids, the teams, coaches, and all involved by the negative publicity. Sure the reporting/airing may result in more sold newspapers (think ad revenue) or viewers of a broadcast (think ad revenue) and yes, the reports may be available later to anyone in the world thanks to the Internet, but when the media goes for the buck, we all lose.

It is not what is reported, it is how it was and will be covered, and the basic decision to publish or not publish, broadcast or not broadcast. In no way are we advocating censorship. Instead, we support responsive journalism. Unfortunately, we don’t always get it.

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