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Joe Larkins

Former Memphis TV Newsman Comments on Reporters Knowing Where They Are

As we have commented on this site before, Mall management complained of crimes happening many miles from the Mall of Memphis being reported in the "Mall of Memphis area" - even mall builder Stanley H. Trezevant Jr. complained of this in the very early days of the mall. Recently a newspaper letter to the editor complained about the same thing happening to their neighborhood Whitehaven Responds..... Now a former TV reporter says yes, reporters should be more accurate of where they are.....

Don’t Let Those Little Details Get in the Way of a Good Story

Real estate people will tell you it’s all about location, location, location. In the TV news business, location apparently isn’t that important to some folks. I was reminded of this by a letter to the editor in the Monday morning edition of the Commercial Appeal.

It seems that a person in Whitehaven complained that people in the TV news business referred to some crime in South Memphis as occurring in Whitehaven. Now, in all fairness, it doesn’t help that Whitehaven IS in the SOUTH part of the city and the area known as South Memphis is NORTH OF Whitehaven. Yes, it can be confusing until you figure out the borders. That’s one of the problems you face when you hire producers and reporters new to the market and they don’t bother to learn or don’t care about the names of particular areas. Some might think you’re splitting hairs about whether an area is Whitehaven, Orange Mound, Downtown or Midtown or East Memphis or Germantown or Cordova or Bartlett. Unless of course you live there and some TV type has some sort of negative story they say occurred in your part of town when it in fact it didn’t. In addition to hurting the credibility of the reporter I found it didn’t help the credibility of the anchor who read the story intro. Often times when people complained about a story, they wanted to talk to that news person who read that story on the area. It was especially bad if the story in question was recorded for a CNN cut-in or some other cable segment because that meant it would run for hours unless corrected. It didn’t take me long to learn the borders of what was Oakhaven and and what was Whitehaven. As any producer or reporter I worked with can attest, I used to take them to task if they let things like this slide. I mean come on, if we got caught letting little facts like the location of something get by us, it raises questions about what other facts we might let slide in the name of a story. At WREG we used to have a big city map in the conference room with a breakdown of which areas were called what and it was even broken down into neighborhoods. Often times early morning producers were scrambling to put together three hours of newscasts and couldn’t get to the conference room to check the map while the reporter in the field often times didn’t have access to the info. If a veteran photog wasn’t there to offer location information, the reporter went with what he or she thought was right.

Some might think that the issue of whether some place is Whitehaven or South Memphis is no big deal but I tend to think it’s like being a little pregnant. Afterall, it’s not like there is already a credibility issue with the news business in general and the TV news business in particular.

Joe Larkins