Chases are not news

Let’s hope that one result of the crash of two news helicopters chasing the cops chasing a bad guy is that local TV — and cable — news give up their addiction to this nonstory. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

TV news loves its own clichés and habits; it likes the sameness and predictability. TV news is OCD: This is how we always cover cities digging out from snowstorms and shoppers mobbing malls on the day after Christmas and cops chasing criminals — and, of course, any fire bigger than a Bic’s flame. There’s no news in any of this. It’s the opposite of news, for we know exactly what will happen. News is what we don’t know. But we know how these chases end.

And we know what will happen with TV news and helicopters: They’ll keep doing it. See earlier journalism-review fretting about chopper chases in 2006, 2003, 2002 and 1997 — and, of course, after the O.J. Simpson chase in 1994. It will never change.

  • Paul Lewis

    More proof that the people running local TV news are idiots.

    Paul Lewis

  • Let’s not forget the most absurd coverage of a single truck travelling in Florida in 2000, during the ballot counting, and a batch of ballots from one municipality were being transported to the state capitol. Nothing to see but a truck moving through traffic, broadcast all live on news stations.

    At least the main story was serious news, but covering the transportation of balllots so closely. It was like the OJ slow speed “chase” without any chase.

  • It is a rare moment when my views differ markedly from those of our fearless leader, the BuzzMeister. But, this is one of them. I think these men died in a noble cause. See my post “Friday’s tragic news helicopter crash illustrates the customer-oriented culture that will help local TV news compete online” (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

  • I read that the suspect in this chase may be held responsible for the 4 chopper fatalities which seems totally unreasonable to me.

  • A year or so ago, Fox News spent a good part of the afternoon following a very compelling car chase. I don’t remember the details of the chase and I suspect they were unimportant at the time. It was a chase. Copters were above.

    When 8:00 PM came along, though they had covered the chase for hours, and though it wasn’t yet over, Fox ran O’Reilly (which I believe is normally recorded). By not following the chase to its conclusion, Fox unmasked the chase for what it was, “news porn.”

    This is not meant to pick on FNC, because I don’t believe they are alone in how these (often meaningless) chases are valued.

    Too often, TV news covers events instead of exploring issues. What a shame for us.

  • Duneview

    My guess is this is a non-story in Jarvisville N.J., where mid-air helicopter collisions are common. To the rest of the world, this was news. Granted, TV has a bias towards “picture” stories – which often don’t constitute your narrow definition of news – “what we don’t know” but does that mean if a story is interesting but predictable it should be scrapped?

    My eyes glaze over when the Natalie Holloway story is revisited and Scooter Libby’s travails left me snoring, but if 2 helicopters collided over my back yard, that would get my attention. At least as much as watching German canal surfer girls.

  • Jeesh, Duneview. OF COURSE the collision is news. The chase that caused it wasn’t.

  • I’m hoping this tragedy will lead to a serious discussion about chopper safety during chases, since stations are not going to stop covering them. A safer alternative would be a pool system to avoid five or six helicopters in the air close to each other. I doubt news directions and station managers will go for it though, especially when they can argue about the relatively few number of news helicopter crashes — and fewer still involving two news choppers colliding.

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  • Now this would be news if our so-called ‘watchdog’ press grew a spine (or did not have another agenda). I had hoped that at one time Jeff might have made a positive contributions in this regard. Maybe at some point…

    Dirty Bombs, Gut Feelings and False-Flags: An Examination of Implications of Recent Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Economist Mr. Paul Craig Roberts

  • I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Chases are not news, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.