Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Enquirer has lost its conscience

I'm not providing links today. With a headline size more appropriate for the bombing of Baghdad, the Enquirer splashed across the front page today the story that the mother who left her baby to die in a hot car will not be charged with a crime. It has also posted on its web site video "that shows Brenda Nesselroad-Slaby's fateful movements on the day her 2-year-old daughter died in her searing hot SUV. The video shows Slaby removing doughnuts from her SUV, parking it, and walking into work. Her child remained inside for eight hours." That link this morning is the most prominent on the Enquirer's front page.

I'm not providing links because I'm not going to encourage people to view the video or the story, because that would only encourage the Enquirer to post more and more of this crap. The Enquirer doesn't care about the family, the community or the dead baby, only hits, hits and more hits. The paper has been shamelessly exploiting the deaths of children to sell more papers and to get more web hits. The death of this child was an accident, and I can't imagine how the constant drumbeat of big, above-the-fold headlines on this story serves the community. It clearly doesn't. The Enquirer is simply appealing to the basest instincts of its readers in a desperate attempt to gain readers and web hits.

If this is the tack the Enquirer is going to take from now on, it should just get rid of any pretension that its a real newspaper and convert to a tabloid. Margaret Buchanan, Tom Callinan and Hollis Towns should be ashamed of themselves.

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are completely off base and out of touch on this one. The Slaby case has clearly touched a nerve in the community. It dominates conversations at parties, churches and other gatherings. The interest extends well beyond Clermont. The Enq's reports have been accurate and have helped people understand the reasons behind decisions made by the prosecutor's office. The 400-plus comments posted Enquirer.com are clear evidence of how deeply divided people are about this case. It's good to promote the conversation and understanding. Yes, it is a tragic case, but it clearly deserves this level of coverage.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Newsache said...

Do you want to touch a nerve? Touch it with stories about our ineffective government, our subsidizing of the rich, our poor education system, our high levels of personal and national debt, the 47 million Americans who don't have health care, our bad air, the people who are losing their homes, our stagnant incomes, our failed attempt at nationbuilding in the Mideast. This case, tragic though it is, is being used by the Enquirer not only to build web traffic and sell newspapers, but to divert us from all the other things they should be covering but are not.

I am not complaining about the coverage, only the prominence. The Enquirer is covering this story this way because it is easy to do, and because they don't have the resources or the will to cover the broad issues that really affect our lives. In the Slaby case, the Enquirer is totally reactive. It takes a proactive newspaper to make our community better, but the Enquirer doesn't have the resources, the will or the intellect to do that job.

It doesn't take a genius to "touch" people with stories about dead babies. To exploit dead babies for profit, that's another matter altogether.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Newsache on this one. Channel 5's Brian Hammrick broke the story earlier today regarding a pattern of this behavior which apparently was overlooked by the Enquirer. The Enquirer was more concerned with sensationalizing the story immediately rather than digging for more truth.

I believe that the Enquirer has lost focus on investigative reporting in favor of sensationalist journalism.

2:07 PM  
Blogger scprideandms said...

I was going to comment on the pattern of behavior news also but someone beat me to it.

And EVERYONE I have talked to (every race/sex/religion) thinks it's wrong that the mother is not charged.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand by my statement above (10:54 a.m.) You think newspapers haven't been "exploiting" human tragedy for years? C'mon, get real. Your suggestions for stories that you think WILL touch a nerve are just the kind of stories that, quite often, readers don't give a rip about. Nation building? Bad air? I can hear readers yawning already. Give me stories with emotion and impact. Want to see readers REALLY flee from newspapers? Write stories about the national debt. Subsidizing the rich? Puh-leeze. Slaby is the story that everyone is talking about. How could it NOT deserve this level of prominence? And Channel 5? You must be joking. All they did was report on a police report that was released to them and everyone else.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Newsache said...

Exactly what is added to the community coversation by the posting of the video? There are human stories to be told in every topic I mentioned, you just have to expend the energy to find those stories and then know how to tell them. This story was gift-wrapped for the Enquirer -- a dead white baby in a Mercedes. Who could resist?

Dead babies are easy. Here's dead babies: The infant mortality rate for blacks in Hamilton County is 16 per 10,000, three times the rate for whites. Child deaths are rising even as the child population is declining. When was the last time the Enquirer reported on that with a big headline above the fold?

That would involve work, wouldn't it? We all know the Enquirer is taking the easy way out these days.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous mr. whig said...

Sure, it's easy, but if page hits are what you need, and it's the measure most watched by your corporate masters, isn't that what you go for?

Would The Enquirer even bother doing something that required any effort like "Divided by Race" anymore? (Which they even didn't do on their own anyway?) Unlikely.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it great how clicks speak for themselves?

The people click what they want. Run your snoozers, lose your audience.

The only thing that's changed in journalism is that you can actually see what people choose to read these days. Journalists have a very hard time with this. They feel that its their job to tell the people what they SHOULD hear. The web has just knocked the wind out of their sails. Which is exactly what their sails (egos) needed.

You thought they were reading the meaty stories before just because you ran them, but they were likely just flipping to the crime, obits and ad pages all along-- you just couldn't count the page flips.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 5:30 this morning, the handling of this story was nothing short of tacky. The headline read something like, "Mom get donuts, forgets kid" in larger than usual, RED type. By clicking on the headline or photo, the user experience was straight to the video rather than a story.

A written story would have taken time and possibly consideration plus fact checking - things that one comes to expect from mainstream media. Instead, any reader at that point in time was thrust into video that they may or may not have wanted to view.

The on-demand option of display of that video still turns my stomach even with the change in the Enquirer's tone. Even TV (WCPO included) has moved away from it and is questioning deeper issues and displaying them in top stories. Isn't questioning issues the bigger thing at this point? After all, we can't bring the baby back no matter how many web hits are generated for whatever reasons.

The USAToday ran a great series of stories about this issue about a month ago, way before the Slaby case occurred. The USAToday took several angles in consideration of the issue of children left in hot cars. Maybe the Enquirer ought to check that out. Maybe link to it and take that research into consideration.

My heart goes out to the family but no one has seemed to questioned that a child was left in the car at the very first stop of the day. The first stop of the day is not that far off of the routine and keeps the kid awake/top of mind. If one never leaves their kid in the car, this sort of thing does not happen. Check out the archive of the USAToday stories...

This reader saw the video once and knew that it was an inside glimpse on a horrific death. I am disgusted that the Enquirer continues to run this large and up front. The "paper" ought to be better considering that another Gannett outlet already had compelling stories and statistics on the subject; without making a reader watch a death.

I am extremely bothered by the change in tone from the Enquirer over the course of the day. Is the Enquirer is trying to to lead a community conversation trying to stage a rumble for cocktail party conversation?

Ahhh... ANON 10:54, you posted your message prematurely and then defended it. Did you ever think about how it would come off to others over time? Think that others in the media wouldn't have left the exploitation behind WAY before now? Ever think about what people experience and when in viewing media or the news? MAYBE... trained and experienced, stodgy editorial staffer have a few things right by their insistences. MAYBE publishing anything and everything ISN'T the best thing to do - even if it gets a decent amount of hits.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New lead story (Lamont Hunter sentencing) but same problem. A headline leading straight into a video without notice. I expected a story and I got what I didn't care to view.

It isn't like the sentencing just happened at 8. It isn't like a newspaper company doesn't have writers. It isn't like putting that video up front wasn't the cheapest and easiest thing to do instead of offering what newspaper reader expect even if we happen to be online to do it.

TV websites suck too but not this bad.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Enquirer is using web traffic patterns to model all of its editorial decisions. So you should expect to see more sex, violence and scandal. But important issues are being discarded under the wrongheaded thinking that readers don't care about about government decisions that truly are affecting their lives, and their pocketbooks.

No other major newspaper in the country has aborted on its public watchdog role more than the Enquirer. And that is sad.

Those who understand what is happening know it is a death spiral. In fact, I haven't seen a company so commit itself to self-destruction since New Coke in the 1980s.

The day will come when something really significant will simply be blown off by editors absorbed with the latest Mike Allen-ish sex scandal. They can only cook the books with "premium" editions so far.

Eventually, the audience will figure out the Enquirer is transforming itself into the Weekly World News, and even that rag couldn't sustain itself with fiction and sensationalism. But who knows, maybe Bay Boy lives in Hyde Park.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

100 years ago, newsboys stood on street corners yelling the most lurid headlines of the day to sell newspapers. That was before paid circulation and media monopolies, when people could choose among a half-dozen papers each day. The Internet is giving readers hundreds of news outlets, and they, like 19th and early 20th century readers, are choosing what they want to read. And it's not some long, hand-wringing analysis of how this country is going to crap.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Marlo Brandon said...

newsache said "Do you want to touch a nerve? Touch it with stories about our ineffective government"

To a degree this story IS about innefective government. Even if the Enquirer refuses to report it.

The Slaby woman employed a County Commissioner as her defence lawyer. So, her lawyer was the prosecutor's boss.

Surely this falls into a distinct "conflict of interest" story angle, but with the Enquirer now, seemingly, only printing "positive news" about Cincinnati and employing toothless reporters, it doesn't get a mention.

Also - and this is a 'no smoke without flames' rumour - the Slaby woman was good friends with the Prosecutor.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous lawyergirl said...

This coverage sickens me. Worst of all are the Enquirer forums where the armchair lawyers from Price Hill and Milford share with us their legal wisdom and insights into the judicial process. I didn't think that the Enquirer could sink any lower after the whole Marcus Feisel debacle, but clearly I was mistaken.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there is ever a window replacement needed in my house (and this would include every window in this house and any future homes), there is one company that I will intentionally NOT call for bid.

That would be the that ONE that allowed advertising to lead into an unanticipated and unmarked video that I did NOT want to experience.

There is no excuse for this coverage and there is no excuse for the advertising related to it.

I choose and will remember forever...the enquirer has flipped this reader off again and this reader is double-barreled back on the middle finger.

This reader is also saying "fuck you dumb-shits". The enquirer displays nothing I care about. Get you jollies on hits... ever think of tackling real issues like WHY any parent would leave a kid in a car? Has the enquirer ever thought of having a community conversation on how NOT to leave a child in a car?

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's what everyone seems to have missed: Where were the Enquirer's crack investigative/cops reporters on this story?

It took the police releasing the information to reveal that there was a pattern of mom leaving the child in the car.

Once again, it's information dropped into the paper's lap. It did not uncover it, but now pretends it's on top of the news.

As for comments about the good old days of newspapering ... one thing to remember is that the Enquirer was notorious for "yellow" journalism and is even shown an example of it in the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.

It's merely returning to its roots of capitalizing and milking stories it had nothing to do with uncovering. Nice sleight of hand.

10:25 PM  
Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati said...

Anon 6:41,

I wonder what proof you have that the behavior of an internet hyper-clicker has any relationship whatsoever to how people read print news?

The interfacing is totally different, and so is the psychology.

I remember when The Enquirer had the headline "Ford Tinkers with Tranny." I thought Harrison Ford got caught buying sex with a man. Really, Ford Motor Company did something to a transmission plant.

So what did my click teach them?

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using this video is nothing short of shameless exploitation. It's disgusting, just like using the video of the kids flying around inside the school bus in Kentucky was. Apparently the dignity of citizens deemed innocent by the legal system is up for sale to the highest bidder.

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean -

I remember when The Enquirer had the headline "Ford Tinkers with Tranny." I thought Harrison Ford got caught buying sex with a man. Really, Ford Motor Company did something to a transmission plant.

The real point here is that you were clicking in hopes to read about Harrison and the tranny...

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YES! THE ENQUI-LIAR SUCKS!

6:11 PM  

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