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Mainstream Media Prefer Hot Quotes, Rely on Unqualified Comment, Just Like Blogs

The Reverend Representative Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) tells an interesting story in this blog's comment section about civil discourse and the mainstream media. The good Hickey discusses the media inquiries he got right after Judge Karen Schreier's ruling Monday that South Dakota's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution:

True story: when the Court decision came down this week my phone started ringing. Apparently in this moment of time I'm the media's go to person for the other view on this issue. Many media calls came. Something different happened this time. I did every interview pretending my friend Steve Hildebrand was sitting next to me. The concerns I voiced were nothing new but I guess I did leave out the creative and biting rhetoric that easily comes to me. Only one media source dropped a quote from me in their story. Usually when they call me, they quote me. Makes me think there is a hunger out there for us to be beating each other up. I didn't feed it this time and civility apparently isn't as newsworthy [Steve Hickey, comment, Madville Times, 2015.01.15].

Rep. Rev. Hickey, a vociferous opponent of same-sex marriage and homosexuality, discusses the issue while imagining he is in the same room as a passionate gay-rights advocate. He tones down his rhetoric—just as I have seen we tend to do on this blog in the comment sextion when we speak to each other with real names instead of pseudonyms. The professional mainstream media comes away disappointed not to get the money quote and leaves the good Hickey's tempered response mostly out of their coverage.

Elsewhere, I notice that KELO reports on the proposed increases in vehicle registration fees by talking to three men in the street. The KELO report offers no indication of the three men's qualifications as objective, informed commentators on public policy. The KELO report is just three guys' opinion.

I thought the mainstream media beat blogs because blogs lean toward extremist, inflammatory discourse, while the mainstream media strive for more tempered reportage. I thought the mainstream media beat blogs because blogs are just some guy's opinion, while KELO et al. give us authoritative facts.

The above two examples suggest that we bloggers are producing journalism not that much different from our mainstream counterparts... except our product costs less and is more fun.


  1. Nick Nemec 2015.01.15

    The quality of a journalistic endeavor is dependent on the effort put into it, and often the real story is boring compared to the inflamed rhetoric of the fringes.

  2. Jaka 2015.01.15

    I assiduously peruse the Madville to get news/opinion from all,,, kinda like PBS for a fact!!! I am glad for Hickey's input--I only wish more legis guys would comment too. Thanks, Cory.

  3. leslie 2015.01.15

    woman-on-the-street is just another way to introduce a news story. though not a journalist, "whatever works"

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.15

    As Hickey has apparently just learned, the media, mainstream or tributary, likes extreme rhetoric. As I've said many times, that's why we all know what garbage comes out of the mouths of Christianists like the Florida Koran burner, the Phelps crazies, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham and others. But we don't know what Jim Wallis thinks, or ELCA church-wide Bishop Johnson, or the president of the United Church of Christ. There is one very liberal church leader who does get press, often to the embarrassment of other welcoming Red-Letter Christian churches. That would be the Rev. Al Sharpton.

    All the ordained folks on an area of the theological spectrum don't speak with one voice. I doubt Hickey agrees with Joel Osteen, but they both occupy the right side, evangelical spot.

  5. Donald Pay 2015.01.15

    Yeah, it an interesting story, but it's hard to judge any of this without more information. Did the stories that were done quote others who were more strident? Did they quote others because they were more strident or for some other reasons (maybe more on point on the legal issues)?

    And, maybe Hickey's quotes were put in the story by the journalist, but decisions on space/time required editing them out . This is fast breaking hard news regarding a legal issue, so deadlines and space/time issues do come into play, especially since you have to cover both sides of the legal issue, which is adversarial, after all.

    I expect South Dakota media will want to do follow-ups over the next several weeks. More in-depth stories that aren't immediate might be a better forum for the sort of quotes Hickey was giving.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.15

    Donald, I'll be happy to see the South Dakota media's in-depth reporting and extensive interviews on the topic.

  7. MC 2015.01.16

    Anyone who has any dealings with the media knows it is all about ratings. How many people watching this show or that channel, How many people are visiting a web site, how many are reading the paper. The more people watch/visit the more that can be charge for advertising.

    When there is breaking news, you want to be first. First on the scene, first to air, first to publish on line. As a part of the story you want charged comments from both sides of the issue. Media organizations have some 'go-to' people in their Rolodex (contact list) who have provided some fun comments in the past.

    Why? People like passion and raw emotions, people like to see people 'lose it' My proof? Look at some of the more popular shows on television today. The Bachelor, can't get more raw than that.

    When a news breaks on a emotionally charge subject, you run out (call) to try to get the most explosively charge comments from both sides of the issue as quickly as you can. You want to show the prelude to the battle. The more outrageous the comments, the more passion that is throw behind the words, the better. Be quick about it, remember you wan to be first. Don't worry too much about the facts, just don't get anything wrong, but get the raw emotion, get it fast, and get it to air/published

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.16

    So, MC, you agree that the mainstream media operate on the same motives as the blogs?

    By the way, if I were properly interested in ratings, I'd write a lot more "crime of the week" and "sick child of the week" stories instead of posting all those boring analyses of bills before the Legislature.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.16

    Jerry, faster broadband? Heck, I just need a faster server. Sorry about the slow loads!

  10. MC 2015.01.16

    I agree, because I have seen it happen.

  11. mike from iowa 2015.01.16

    I wish he would,Jerry. I have a few choice words for dumbass dubya lite. He gets a big thumbs up for sticking it to wingnuts,just not near often enough to suit me.

    My internet is like me,uneducated and slow.

  12. MC 2015.01.16

    Cory, this is your blog, and you can post/write about what ever your heart's desires. You can choose to allow comments or not (Thank you for allow us to comment) If for some reason you opt that you want to write about sick children and their families or about movie/television reviews that is your choice.

    Right now you have chosen politics. you currently have an audience. You know how to push their buttons. You know how to evoke a response. If you decide to change, you will get a different audience

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.16

    The only thing I would change about my audience is I would make it bigger. But I would do that by convincing 845,000 South Dakotans that they should all read about South Dakota politics over breakfast.

  14. mike from iowa 2015.01.16

    What's the point of doing actual in-depth reporting when almost nobody reads it or watches it? Seems like the only demographic willing to sit and watch are tools for Fake Noise non-news-non-truth propaganda.

  15. Happy Camper 2015.01.16

    Hickey's campaign materials sent to Democrats emphasized his liberal views but that doesn't make him one. So he wants to come across more moderate: More votes that way. The letter he wrote was not a quick emotional response.

  16. larry kurtz 2015.01.16

    Powers is salivating over the possibility that Marty and and the state will exact retributive justice on a woman. Pathetic really.

  17. MC 2015.01.16

    Mike from IA;
    I wrote a piece some time about Railroads in South Dakota for the SDWC. On the surface it looked like I was whining. However I did get some kudos from seasoned reporters, inquiries from elected official s and some hate mail. (A sure sign of a good piece) While the issue may have been simmering I brought up to the forefront and things were addressed. Did I alone do this, No; I just connected all the dots. I asked questions, conducted interviews and dug through was seemed like endless Bits and Bytes of data. I spent many hours and hard work putting the piece together.

    In the end I am pleased with the result. Am I going to win an award for it? I kind of doubt it. My goal was to bring to light what could be a serious issue unless we address now. I would like to think I did that. My only payment was, my name on the’ by’ line. It was worth it, and I would do it again.

    In today’s world there is so much happening so fast it is hard to keep up. The news has to be reduced to a 25 to 30 second sound bites. For complex topics like the homeless in Sioux Falls or Transportation issue state wide, 30 seconds just isn’t going to do it. In depth reporting takes time and energy to write and read. By the time you finish reading a true in depth article to the point that you understand it. A republic may have risen and fallen, and the world isn’t the place you thought it was when you started.

  18. Happy Camper 2015.01.16

    So you rely on unqualified comments? On further reflection that's quite offensive. See what they do!

  19. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.16

    Various public media sources such as NPR, PBS, American Public Media, and Public Radio International are excellent sources of long form, in depth issue-oriented, well researched reporting.

  20. MC 2015.01.17

    Those are good sources, However they rarely wade into some of the hot topics of the day.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.17

    MC, it probably depends on where you are. Some states, like SD, refuse to run certain programs. MPR in MN plays more controversial shows. I listen on Sirius satellite radio and content comes from across the country. I hear programs from Boston, Portland, Chicago and elsewhere. There is some very good stuff and it's always at least 25 minutes per topic. Granted, it could be much longer, and sometimes is, but it's much better than the networks and Faux. NPR runs series on topics too.

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