OPINION: Local media scorned for doing their jobs, covering breaking news

Danielle Prewitt

Local media is “feeling the Bern.”

Bernie Sanders’ campaign opened an office in Wichita last week and a loyal band of Sanders supporters — purportedly 900 of them — gathered for a rally Saturday night at Abode, a venue downtown.

Around the same time Saturday night, a power line went down causing a house fire and destroying a home near Valley Center, prompting local media outlets to cover the fire, leaving the political gathering unreported.

Thus, the embers of Sanders’ fans began to burn aggressively.

Angered by lack of coverage, the group “Sedgwick County for Bernie Sanders” voiced their frustration the next morning on the rally’s event listing, on the place where virtually everything garners an audience —Facebook.

“It is situations like this that require us to keep speaking up. The media is not on our side, they have done us absolutely no favors, and they seem absolutely focused on making sure that no one notices us taking ground,” wrote the group.

Ardent Sanders supporters commented their concerns and attack on local media, hinting the incident as political bias.

“I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t see any Hillary Clinton rallies with over 900 people around here. I don’t see any Trump rallies with that many people. No Cruz or Rubio rallies,” posted the group. “This is absolutely nonsense and it’s incredibly disrespectful that something this newsworthy can’t even be mentioned.”

And they were peeved that Clinton got a mere fraction of news coverage earlier in the week, from her campaign office opening in Wichita, as well.

Comments loomed from: “Good ‘ole selective news coverage!” to “This is absolutely pathetic. I would love to see a massive blitz of letters to the media outlets showing our disappointed in their ability to present the news.”

The commentors are angered that local news stations, committed to journalistic values and integrities, decided to report breaking news rather than cover a band of trusty supporters rooting for someone who, let’s face it, will most likely fail in the state’s caucuses, anyway.

The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics states journalists must, “deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.” Wherein it also states to “encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media,” allowing those from the rally freedom to express their concerns. However, no political bias was demonstrated by any news outlet.

It is the discretion of the news organization and news director what is newsworthy. Not to assume this rally wasn’t newsworthy — indeed, a few news pegs exist — but breaking news takes precedence.

One commentor posted a screenshot image of an email thread with KWCH news director Brian Gregory. She writes to Gregory, “… an event of any kind in Wichita where 900 people show up is newsworthy.” Gregory responded, “If I had to cover every event that drew 900 I’d be running people out non stop.”

A few commentors on the post were skeptical that a news outlet only had one reporter during the weekend. Their opinions were valid, they had a right to be mad, and some form of media should have been there, but newsrooms are scarce on the weekends, typically sheltering one reporter or photographer on a Saturday night. I was an intern at KSN for five months and sat alongside a lone producer for several weekends in an abandoned newsroom.

A producer can create a newscast featuring a political rally at the top of a show, but the minute the dispatch radio sounds off reporting a house fire, the flames of a political rally simply don’t burn as bright.