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Stop Pretending There’s Only Negative Police Coverage

I’m curious as to what constitutes this position that the news media is perpetually in the wrong when covering police?

Bill Zito



You will not see this from me very often as I don’t wish to snag onto someone else’s column for BNM. But, as I’m not taking exception with the author/columnist and since I wore a police uniform for a dozen years, I feel qualified, perhaps even justified. This is in response to the question raised in last week’s column from BNM columnist Rick Shultz. “Should the Media be More Supportive of Law Enforcement?”  

It leads me to reply, not to Mr. Shultz, but to the question itself.

In fact, it really appears that Fox News anchor Trace Gallagher raised the actual questions while speaking with Retired Police Lieutenant Randy Sutton, a law enforcement analyst and supporter of the police community.

Mr. Sutton, in my opinion, is a great representative of law enforcement in general and frankly, of the community as a whole.

He’s a professional who has done his time in service, enough I’m sure for multiple cops.

He, like many law enforcement officers, first responders, and public servants are well in their right to question the media about its coverage of police activity, shootings, and use of force incidents.

Sutton made a statement to Mr. Gallagher, “They’ve (cops) been shot, they’ve been stabbed, they’ve been beaten. And yet, you don’t even see it in the newspapers. It’s barely covered because it’s not politically expedient for the political left and for the mainstream media to even cover.”

In some instances, he may have a point. But in other instances, I’m afraid he doesn’t.

Frankly, I don’t think there could ever be enough air, screen, or print time devoted to the heroics of those who watch over and protect us. So many acts of great service and bravery never see the light of day.

This is a common observation and an even more common complaint and sentiment from members of law enforcement.

Perhaps that’s what Mr. Sutton or Mr. Gallagher mean by the media’s “support” of law enforcement.

But, is it the news media’s place to “support” or are we here to tell you what’s happening?

I’ve lived in half a dozen states, worked just as many news markets and I have not experienced one where news of a cop, firefighter, or first responder of any kind injured in the line of or even off duty did not make the A-Block or at minimum the B-block based on the severity of the injury or circumstances.

Don’t make me get into the tragedies: the deaths. Wall-to-wall coverage at the outset, followed by updates, reaction and advancement of the story. The investigations, the arrests and the prosecutions of criminal suspects in high profile cases get significant exposure. We always want the perp walk, the body cam of the take down and the soundbite from the Detective, the Chief or the P.I.O.

So, I’m curious as to what constitutes this position that the news media is perpetually in the wrong when covering police?

Are we measuring local versus national interest or coverage? What News Director, Beat Reporter et al is willing to stand for this type of allegation? When cops do something bad or questionable, I’m sorry, but it is news, too. Is it the ratio of coverage of bad or criminal conduct by police to the actions of good cops?

The old saying is just as true for cops as it is for everyone else, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes”.

The feelings and the comments from my fellow officers were always pretty standard whenever one of us in blue got into trouble, was accused of wrongdoing, or involved in a questionable or controversial shooting or use of force incident.

“They only cover us when it’s bad”. “Why don’t they tell the good stories about us?”

I used to ask the very same questions. I felt the very same way. It’s not easy to have your picture in the paper or on the screen when you’re accused of doing something wrong.

But the absence of positive police news is not always the fault of news outlets.

Think about it. Media Relations and Public Information Units don’t always clue us in on the above and beyond calls, arrests, saves, acts of humanity. Remember, we are short staffed too.

And some police bosses still exist who think “they shouldn’t get an Atta Boy for just doing their jobs”, How many times did we hear that at an Officer of the Month Ceremony?

But just what about the “War on Police” is not receiving coverage? Where and when is this not happening and to what level is this not happening?

It’s easy for social media posts to cry, “Why isn’t the media covering this?” or “You won’t see this on mainstream media!”

Most of the time it’s something heavily covered by the news media, in fact their source articles are all coming from a news media generated story.  

I am not a regular defender of the news media by any stretch, usually just the opposite. Truth be told, my knee-jerk reaction after more than twenty-years out of the uniform is still to initially defer to the cops.

There are police officers who do wrong and to deny that would be ridiculous. There is equally plenty the news media does wrong and the same rule applies.

In each case, when that wrong happens it should be investigated and explored, and yes, covered.

Every time a Derek Chauvin comes to light it’s bad for all officers but for every Chauvin there are a hundred like Eugene Goodman, Richard DuChaine, or Jesse Turano.

Say Chuavin’s name and everyone knows the story. Goodman, DuChaine, or Turano…most will need Google.

Some of that responsibility is the media, some is on the police but most I think is just on society.

Dislike or institutional suspicion of the police by members of the news media is nothing new but it’s far from what I would call pervasive. I have seen and continue to see it first hand but it’s largely based on ignorance.

On the flip side of that, a side I find to be more common, is a genuine affection and interest in the law enforcement community. Reporters are almost protective of the job. Who hasn’t seen marvelously produced, multi-part stories on police suicide and P.T.S.D., Community relationships with officers and the constant worry about staffing shortages and health concerns?

Not uncommon to the human condition; we remember the bad much longer than we do the good.

But back to Mr. Sutton’s position for a moment, a claim he immediately politicized by criticizing one side of the aisle and using a tired and antiquated put-down for a perceived type of news media. He made these claims before Mr. Gallagher, a member of the media, seemingly serving his own agenda, with his own political leanings and using the very people he used to walk amongst as a backdrop. And he used the news media to do it.

Who is and who isn’t supporting law enforcement here?

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BNM Writers

Activist Journalism Should Have No Place in Mainstream Media

Lord of the Flies might only be a book, but many journalistic outlets are becoming savages for the sake of activist journalism.



A photo of a protest

Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan was shocked most Americans are supportive of deporting illegal aliens (because that is the actual legal term for undocumented immigrants). CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan has no idea America is not a democracy (the Irish journalist might want to take a civics class before making this false claim). And the Surgeon General is calling on social media outlets to have warning labels. It’s just more proof that activist journalism has grown all too prevalent in mainstream media today.

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.” Lord of the Flies might only be a book, but many journalistic outlets are becoming savages for the sake of activist journalism. Perhaps we (the media) are becoming the beast we once feared.

Brennan’s shock at her own outlet’s poll made headlines because many felt it shouldn’t be a surprise. No country in the history of Earth has been or will be completely content with an exorbitant amount of people from another country landing within their borders. The report, which claimed 62% of Americans support deporting those who come here illegally, is now framed with additional results. 53% of Hispanic voters say they would favor the program.

The new CBS poll also found more Americans “overwhelmingly” trust President Trump on border security than President Biden. While we have yet to see Ms. Brennan’s jaw drop on air a second time, I’m confident it’s already happened behind the scenes. Reactions like this are not only un-journalistic (because just give us the news, we don’t care about your opinion that’s what talk radio is for), they show how out of touch some members of the media are with America outside of the large markets.

Speaking of out-of-touch with America, CNN seems to believe it’s a good idea to have a biased non-American report on the election. Regardless of his citizenship, Mr. O’Sullivan needs to learn more about the Constitution and the founding of the American government before reporting on it. I have said it before and will say it again, America is not a democracy, it is a democratic republic. Those on the right saying America is just a Republic are also wrong.

Mr. O’Sullivan’s false narrative that America is a democracy is a prime example of activist journalism in the works. Other “reporting” from him (if you can call it that) also included interviews with Pro-Palestinian groups who say they will not back Biden. Yet he does not ask one very simple question: Then who will they back? Trump? Doubtful, but if that is the answer it never made it into his story.

These national outlets might want to take a lesson from their affiliates, as local news now has more Americans’ trust than the bigger, more staffed, and better-paid counterparts. Why? Because there is less opinion and more journalism at the local level. This is likely why a May Pew Institute Research poll showed 69% of Americans believe that local journalists in their area are mostly in touch with their community. With even more (85%) believe local news is “somewhat important” to the well-being of their local community. National news poll numbers don’t even come close (as I previously commented).

What’s most concerning out of all the past week’s headlines, however, is Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy’s call for social media to come with a warning label. This would be as effective as posting warning labels on cigarette packs (meaning this is going to do nothing to stop people from partaking in addictive habits).

You can not save everyone and you certainly can’t save agenda-driven “journalists” from developing propaganda and posting it to social media. If a warning label on cigarettes won’t stop smokers from smoking it won’t stop social media users from scrolling. It is a drug, some people are addicted. It is an unfortunate but true part of life.

Most, if not all, Americans are aware of the addictiveness of social media just like they know the dangers of smoking. Warning labels won’t make people stop and think. It’s just more government overreach.

This is the thing local news does best, gives you unbiased information, it does not tell you how to think about certain issues (usually), and the good outlets call out government overreach when they see it.

We can not regulate our way out of life nor can the industry continue to render activist journalism and try to pass it off as real news. People are getting smart and turning to local news for facts. Hopefully, these stations won’t be corrupted by the same powers that now influence our national outlets.

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BNM Writers

Fox News Leads 80th Anniversary of D-Day Coverage

More than 3 million viewers watched coverage of the 80th anniversary on cable news.

Doug Pucci



A photo of Fox News coverage of D-Day

One of the notable news events in June was the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany back on Thursday, June 6. More than 3 million viewers watched the coverage on cable news with Fox News leading the way.

President Biden attended a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery in France alongside French President Emmanuel Macron. In his remarks, Biden pledged “We will not walk away” from Ukraine, using the example of the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi domination In parallel to the current war against Russian aggression. “To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable. If we were to do that, it means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.”

The morning news programs televised the D-Day remembrance ceremonies within the 8-9 AM ET hour on Thursday, June 6. Fox News was tops on cable overall, according to Nielsen Media Research, with 1.467 million viewers including 153,000 within the key 25-54 demographic. The network sent host Martha MacCallum to Normandy to broadcast live from the site of the invasion, sharing stories of combat veterans.

The MSNBC’s entire 6-9 a.m. ET block averaged 1.019 million viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54.

CNN/HLN’s combined broadcast drew 475,000 viewers and 110,000 in the 25-54 demo.

Later in the month, on Tuesday, June 11, music superstar Céline Dion joined Today co-host Hoda Kotb on NBC for the singer’s first one-on-one interview since publicly revealing she suffers from a neurological condition called stiff person syndrome.

Getting a huge assist from its America’s Got Talent (5.527 million) lead-in, the one-hour news special entitled “Celine’s Story” delivered 3.227 million viewers, marking it the most-watched program on all of television within the 10-11 p.m. hour on June 11. It outdrew such other 10 p.m. news shows as Fox News’ Gutfeld! (2.496 million), MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (1.078 million) and CNN’s NewsNight (433,000).

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BNM Writers

How KDKA Transformed Overnights to Grow Its Future and Reach Younger Audiences

“The overwhelming feedback has been positive. It makes us local, it gives us a bench … it makes the radio station’s brand bigger and connects us in different areas.”

Garrett Searight



A photo of the cast of KDKA Next Take and the KDKA logo
(Photo: KDKA)

In February, venerable Pittsburgh news/talk station KDKA announced a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh that would see students from the college host a weekday overnight program.

The program — KDKA Next Take — is heard from 1-5 AM and replaced the nationally syndicated Red Eye Radio in the Audacy-owned station’s lineup.

A product of the imagination of Audacy Pittsburgh Senior Vice President and Market Manager Michael Spacciapolli, he believes the show has been a success in its early run.

“The show certainly offers a different perspective on the way that this generation looks at the world and from their viewpoint as opposed to other hosts who are in a different time in their life than them,” Spacciapolli said. “So we certainly are able to share a different point of view from them, while at the same time utilizing those points of view on social and getting them to really engage the radio station from a social perspective and hopefully engaging in and not just speaking to, but engaging people in that demographic, as well.”

Needing to attract younger audiences has been at the forefront of the news/talk radio industry for quite some time. Another issue discussed by leaders of the format are often centered around where stations will find the next crop of young talent.

With the partnership with Pitt, KDKA took the initiative to seek out those who might be interested in a radio career, rather than hope those potential employees found them.

“I’m always looking for great talent. Everything I do and in every aspect of the radio station, I’m looking for the most talented people. I’m always looking for where is the next great talent in everything we do,” said Spacciapolli. “This gives me the opportunity to have them working with us on an everyday basis and learning everything they do — from their work ethic, to their thought process, to their ideas. It gives me an opportunity to have our own ‘bench’ and have an opportunity to see where talent could come from in the future.

“There’s going to be talent there that we are potentially going to take a look at in different roles. Do they leave Next Take when their time is up on the show and do they immediately become full-time hosts? Probably not. But can they become part-time hosts? Sure,” he added. “Can they become producers? Absolutely. Can they become reporters? Can they become part-time reporters? Absolutely. Working with us gives us the opportunity to certainly move in that direction much more quickly and confidently than we would have previously.”

For decades, overnights were a proving ground for aspiring hosts. The daypart allowed for opportunities for young hosts and provided a low-pressure timeslot to experiment and hone your craft. But with the rise of automation and syndication, those positions have largely fallen by the wayside.

However, Audacy Pittsburgh looked at the partnership with the college and saw opportunity. The collaboration allows a younger generation access to the station that is largely dominated by older hosts and listeners.

Additionally, it provided even more local coverage to a station that prides itself of being “The Voice of Pittsburgh.” That factor wasn’t lost on Spacciapolli.

“A big part of my vision was it gave us the opportunity to be local, gave us the opportunity to be local overnight, which for me is how we win in this business is being local, staying local, talking to people in Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh, and this gave us the opportunity to do that on a pretty big scale and with fresh content every day.”

It would be natural for a full-time or even part-time employee of the Pittsburgh news/talk station to be jealous that a four-hour program was being given to college students. But that hasn’t been the case, Spacciapolli shared.

“The overwhelming feedback is very positive … Because there’s no expense it’s not like it’s somebody else could have been doing it. It would have continued to be syndicated if we weren’t able to do it through the partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. So it just makes the radio station’s brand bigger. It connects us in different areas and hopefully grows the brand and gets the brand younger.”

The program is recorded live-to-tape earlier in the day before airing in the 1-5 AM timeslot, which allows for some fine-tuning and takes the pressure off the radio novices, while also allowing them to helm a show instead of working in the wee hours of the night while trying to focus on their studies.

Spaccipolli shared that an overnight program hosted by college students interested in one day working in the industry doesn’t have to be proprietary to KDKA. He said there’s one deciding factor in the success of the endeavor.

“It’s about the relationships and the partnerships. And, fortunately, I have a great relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, they’re a great partner. I was able to get deep enough into this relationship with them and find ways to potentially make this work,” he stated.

“This is not easy. It’s not something you can pull off easily because, traditionally, I think, people think about it and they think, ‘Oh, there’s got to be significant expense.’ And in this situation, there’s not because that wouldn’t have fit our model for where it is and what we’re trying to do with it. So there isn’t that expense. You’re not gonna be able to make it work everywhere. Fortunately, we were able to do it here.”

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