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Pre-Empting News With Glurge

Reported by Nancy - June 11, 2005 -

Last night (6/10) on Spec Report, Brian Wilson was in for Brit Hume. Because of a power glitch, I wasn't able to tape the program when it originally aired, so my overview relates to its rebroadcast at midnight (EDT). FNC made an interesting decision -- they chose to interrupt Special Report, allegedly a political news program, for "breaking news" on Natalee Holloway. The interruptions were so lengthy they essentially constituted a pre-emption.

The program started off as usual:
12:03am - Carl Cameron reported on Bush's meeting with South Korean President Roh.
12:05am - Bret Baier reported on voting in Lebanon & new allegations that Syria is trying to interfere.
12:09am - Wilson reported on Eric Shawn's EXCLUSIVE interview with Joseph Stephanides.

12:12am - ALERT - David Folk Thomas announced that the AP is reporting that one of the men who are being held in NHolloway's disappearance has confessed to police that he killed her. Rick Leventhal in Aruba reported some more details (for a total of about 6 mins on this story).

12:21pm - Wilson showed a clip of the Bush-Roh photo-op, then interviewed David Kang ("Dartmouth Univ prof"). Wilson asked right up front if North Korea has nukes, & Kang said they probably have 2 to 8, but they've never tested any. Wilson asked if we "have to assume the worst" & Kang said that's what we've been doing, giving the example of calculating from used plutonium. Wilson noted that recently North Korea has sent "mixed signals" about its intent to return to 6 party talks & asked Kang to explain. According to Kang, North Korea says it's willing to come back, but also says it's continuing to build nukes & hasn't set a timeline. He added that all 6 nations involved say they want to resume talks, but no one has agreed on the "how, when. under what conditions." Wilson asked about the significance of Bush & Roh meeting today. Kang began to answer, saying the US & South Korea have fairly large differences ...
But this interview was interrupted ...

12:25pm - ALERT - Rick Leventhal essentially repeated his earlier info about NHolloway
12:28am - feed from Birrmingham TV station WBRC (Fox "sister station") covering this story, including several attempts to get a phone report from Mai Martinez in Aruba, but they kept losing the call & having technical difficulties. They also had a reporter, Jason Dennis, in Holloway's home town of Mountain Brook. The WBRC anchor had one key piece of info: the AP updated their report to say that Aruba police say the teen did NOT confess to killing Holloway, but told them that "something bad happened to her."
12:44am - back to DFThomas at FNC, who recapped
12:45am - Rick Leventhal speculated on why the AP report was changed & gave a rather disjointed timeline of the various arrests in the case.
12:52am - back to feed from WBRC in Birrmingham, which continued past the end of Special Report.

Comment: The first interruption was bad enough. But the second interruption, which lasted 35+ minutes, was largely a re-hash of the same info that has been repeated endlessly for the past 12 days. This hardly constitutes "breaking news". The one exception -- the info that there was no confession -- could have been handled with a 30-second blurb.

The feed from WRBC was particularly annoying with Jason Dennis, who was at the Mountain Brook Community Church, interviewing 2 teen girls who didn't know Holloway but had come to write notes on a "wall of hope" for her family. In addition to the glurge factor of interviewing grief tourists, Dennis also read some of the poems & notes & Bible verses people had stuck on the wall.

Let me ask an uncomfortable question: how much of a role do racism & sexism play in FNC's choices as to whether & how to cover these kinds of stories? According to the Child Trends Data Bank:

Males ages 15 to 19 are about five times more likely than females to die from homicide and suicide, about eight times as likely to die by firearm.

In 2002, the homicide rate for black male teens was 53.3 per 100,000, nearly 14 times higher than the rate for white non-Hispanic males (3.9 per 100,000). Rates for other groups were 25.5 for Hispanic males, 16.7 for American Indian males, and 8.6 for Asian and Pacific Islander males.

Among females, blacks also have the highest homicide rate at 8.0 per 100,000, compared with rates of 4.9* for Native Americans females, 3.1 for Hispanic females, 1.9* for Asian females, and 1.6 for non-Hispanic white females.

So why do we see & read & hear so much about the Holloways, & Lunsfords, & Smarts (never mind the Hackings, & Levys, & Petersons)? Why don't we hear more about the ... well, we hear so little about non-white, non-cute males, that at the moment I can't even come up with the name of a single murdered non-white child who's gotten this kind of coverage over the past few years.

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (FNC's choice to pre-empt Special Report for the Holloway story, or whether there's a tendency for media to focus on cute white women & girls). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.