You may have noticed the phrase leading into today’s front-page story about Mount Rainier National Park: “A News Tribune exclusive.” Actually, it says, “A NEWS TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE,” in all caps and red letters. It’s rather melodramatic, really, like when a local television station says the same thing about its story at the top of the hour.
Broadcast-news organizations are far better than newspapers at promoting their content. When they have an “exclusive,” they tell you about it.
Yet the TNT routinely has more exclusive stories than the local TV stations, certainly more exclusives about the South Sound. It’s a matter of how each of us goes about our business. We serve different purposes.
First, the Seattle TV stations serve huge geographic areas, all of Western Washington and beyond. They do so with far fewer reporters than the TNT. And we focus all of ours on the South Sound. On any given TV broadcast, any community outside Seattle will be lucky to see coverage of even one local story.
Second, many television stories about the South Sound are breaking-news stories we’re covering as well. Crimes and court action, weather and news conferences happen, and we all cover them, so they’re not exclusives.
Next come the stories we report and write that broadcast picks up and runs. Sometimes they give us credit. Sometimes they don’t.
A Pew Research Center report issued earlier this year attempted to answer the question of who’s reporting the news people get about their communities. Researchers studied all of the media outlets that produced local news in Baltimore, focusing on the six major story threads of one week. They found that 83 percent of stories “simply repeated or repackaged previously published information.”
“And of the stories that did contain new information nearly all, 95 percent, came from traditional media – most of them newspapers,” the report said. “These stories tended to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets.”
Sometimes a newspaper or broadcast station is tipped to information, covers it first and rightly claims an exclusive. More frequently for us, exclusives come from reporters covering a beat that no one else is covering. Lewis Kamb breaks exclusive stories all the time out of Tacoma City Hall, for instance, because no one else commits a reporter to that beat. Today’s paper is full of those kinds of exclusives, even though we haven’t labeled them so.
We certainly aren’t the only news outfit producing more in-depth exclusives. Our local public radio station produces fine original work, and local television stations do investigations as well. Many of the TV exclusives run during the four “sweeps” months – February, May, July and November – when the Nielsen rating service is measuring viewership and setting advertising rates.
Many of our higher-end exclusives, such as the story on today’s front page, result from years of beat reporting. Photographer Dean Koepfler and reporter Jeffrey Mayor talk frequently to the people running Mount Rainier National Park who deal with Mother Nature’s challenges. They produced numerous breaking-news packages over the years when flooding washed out roads in the park. TV crews were there, too.
But for this story they stepped back and taught us why the flooding is happening and how we might mitigate the damage. We are sharing this work with our news partner KIRO-TV, but no one else is telling this story. If you see it pop up elsewhere in the next few days – especially if it’s being read by an anchor over file footage of the mountain – you’ll know where it originated.
We’ll try not to bother you with too much self-promotion, but we intend to do a better job of letting you know when we’re bringing you unique local content.
GAINING BACK A TRUSTED NEWS SOURCE
A year ago, we stopped running stories from The Washington Post. It was one of a number of budget cuts we had to make at the time in the newsroom. A couple of months ago, we began running Post stories again as part of a trial agreement, and we recently signed a deal to keep them as we move into next year.
The Post provides high-quality journalism from the nation’s capital that is important to both our news and editorial pages, and we’re glad to be able to share Post stories with our readers once again.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434