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November 2, 2007
Local TV News Sweeps: The Good/Bad

14481350_240X180.jpg
Courtesy of KCRA
A local Toyota Tacoma driver tells Channel 3's Lynsey Paulo that his vehicle is unsafe.

(Note: In case you didn't notice, the local TV news sweeps period began Thursday night. We'll be checking in from time to time on the good, the bad and the just over-the-top in the late news - the big battleground.)

The good:
All four stations had interesting and relatively restrained "special reports."

Channel 3's consumer reporter Lynsey Paulo reported that the Toyota Tacoma has a "surging" malfunction (although the automaker won't call it that.)

Channel 13's Sam Shane reported on how the roofs of new houses are in greater danger of collapsing during a fire because they use metal trusses rather than nails. (But, Sam, did you have to carry around that metal slab throughout the newscast?)

News10's Cristina Mendonsa went to Reno to report on a special school for gifted children and how, in California, we tend to neglect our most gifted students in underachieving GATE programs.

And Fox40, which doesn't label its reporting as "special reports," had a thorough and detailed political piece by Lonnie Wong on the ballot initiative that could change the way California's electoral votes are distributed.

The bad:
Channel 13 proved once more that it's not above scaring viewers just to get them to tune in.

Right before the conclusion of "Without a Trace" - a show that scares most parents in its own right - anchor Pallas Hupe delivered this "teaser" for the 10 o'clock news: "Parents and cops are afraid there may a shooting tomorrow at a local school...."

And now, back to "Without a Trace."

What?!

If that's not the most blatant trick to get people to tune in, I don't know what is. It was total manipulation. Of course, we waited a half hour for Channel 13 to present its story. It turned out to be a follow-up on the teen and his father found murdered in their North Highlands home.

Reporting on a prayer vigil, Ron Jones quoted teens as they speculated that the shooting might have been gang-related - but without a speck of facts to back that up. Then, Jones interviewed a mother of one teen, who refused to be identified on camera, who said she was going to keep her child home from school - the same one that the murdered boy attended - because she feared "retaliation."

What was drastically downplayed in the report was that police have not linked this case with gang activity.

Contrast Channel 13's sensationalistic coverage to that of the competition:

Fox40's Kye Martin and News10's Monika Diaz struck just the right tone, interviewing friends and witnesses but not engaging in wild speculation. Chanenl 3's Richard Sharp, though not as over the top as Channel 13, did interview the same concerned mother whom Jones queried, but at least Sharp didn't dwell on one woman's idle speculation.

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