I’ve written in the past about how Immediacy is a strong news value influencing the media scramble to get the latest details on breaking events. I’d like to expand on that theme a bit and explain why it matters to anyone who might get caught up in a breaking news story.
Let’s start with understanding why TV reporters are covering Hurricane Sandy by standing out in the elements while they tell everyone else to stay inside. It’s a stunt, meant to portray two news values that journalists hold dear. Being outside shows locality or proximity to the news and even if the weather gal is in the station’s parking lot she’s obvious out there “in the weather”.
The other news value being played out is immediacy. The weather reporter can look to the skies and tell us about the storm that appears to be rolling in. We get the impression that this must be the most up-to-date information possible. The irony, of course, is that weather forecasting is done with satellite photos and information supplied by the weather service. Since our weather guy or gal is outside, away from their desk, they don’t necessarily have the most recent information available about the weather.
There is also a heightened sense of drama when we see a reporter buffeted by the wind and rain. The report inevitable ends with a “throw” back to the news anchor in the studio who then utters a banality such as “stay safe”.
Media always go for Fast over Facts, even if the sense of immediacy is illusionary. I was listening to the radio at 7 am once and heard a story about an economic report just released back east, three time zones away. Within a few minutes, the station had woken up a local university professor, told him about the report and was getting his “expert opinion” on the contents.
Why all this matters to you is that there will always be someone willing to comment on your company, organization or report if it should happen to hit the news. True, or not, those comments demand a quick response.
If what you do has the slightest chance of attracting media attention, you should have some training so you know how to deal with reporters and you should have your messages and materials ready and well-practiced.
Otherwise you may find yourself standing in the middle of media hurricane.