What makes news news on television? Is it the event itself or how good the video is?
Chances are, it's a little bit of both.An interesting case in point came Tuesday night in comparing the coverage of the rescue of five lost snowmobilers on KSL, KTVX and KUTV.
KTVX-Ch. 4 led off both its 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts with the most extensive coverage of the rescue, which comes as no surprise because it was a KTVX-leased helicopter that found the missing people.
KSL, which had good video of the event from its own helicopter, made it the lead story at 6 p.m. Ch. 5 did, however, drop the story back behind the first commercial in the 10 p.m. broadcast.
KUTV, which had only video of the ground reunion of the rescued snowmobilers and family members, played the story several minutes into both its early-evening and late-night newscasts.
So who made the correct news judgment?
Well, all three can make arguments for their treatment of the story. But Ch. 4 appeared rather carried away with the self-promotional value of the story and Ch. 2's lack of strong video made it easier to bump the story down.
However, KUTV did lead off both its early and late newscasts with the story of a former Kearns man killed in the Persian Gulf war - a story KTVX used to close its 5:30 p.m. broadcast.
But that's a whole different story of news judgment . . . HELICOPTER WARS: Ironically, the most prominent use of a helicopter in local television news recently came from a station that doesn't own one.
KSL is the only station in town that owns its own copter - the famous Chopper 5 that we see so often in promotional commercials.
But it was KTVX and the leased aircraft that, through a matter of chance, made the big news.NO CREDIT: Interestingly - but not surprisingly - neither Ch. 2 nor Ch. 5 mentioned in their reports of the rescue that it was a Ch. 4-leased helicopter that found the missing snowmobilers.
Ch. 5 even showed video of the rescue copter in the air without any reference to the Ch. 4 news crew on board.
This is standard procedure among all the local stations, who would rather not admit that any of their competitors even exist if they can help it.
(Although KTVX and KUTV didn't hesitate to report former KSL news director Spence Kinard's resignation. And KUTV and KSL both reported on KTVX anchorman Phil Riesen's surgery for a brain aneurysm.)
But sometimes this phobia about mentioning another television outlet reaches ridiculous proportions.
Also on Tuesday night, KSL aired a segment about the upcoming television series "Hollywood Detective," which is being shot here in Salt Lake City. But the only indication of where the program would air was "on a cable channel." (Which, by the way, is Arts & Entertainment.)
Why bother to spend the time reporting on the series if you're not even going to tell viewers what channel it will be on?