Officer Down! Broadcast news outlets provide clarity during city’s tragedy

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By David Baxley, SPJ South Carolina president, Assistant Professor Francis Marion University

Wednesday, gun violence on members of law enforcement hit too close to home in Florence, South Carolina. 

When shots rang out in Wednesday, gun violence on members of law enforcement hit too close to home in Florence, South Carolina. 

Gun Violence
When shots rang out that ended with one police officer was killed and several other officers shot, the local broadcast journalists were trying to place the tragedy in perspective for its audiences. 

When shots rang out in the Vintage Place neighborhood just west of the city, sheriff’s deputies and city police officers responded. Students participating in after-school activities were moved off practice fields and into lock-down mode. 

As local emergency managers issued active shooter information via social media, local television stations became sources of information for so many people living in this area.  

It was the beginning of the 5 p.m. newscasts for stations. Read their current coverage. 

WBTW

WMBF  

and WPDE

All three stations alerted residents in Florence of the unfolding situation nearby with breaking news announcements. The stations became a life-line to the community.  

We all quickly learned that a number of deputies and officers had been shot through our local news media. The scramble for each station to provide the most current information was the number one goal. It was a tough day for law enforcement. It was also a tough day for journalists who work closely with deputies and police officers on a daily basis while covering stories and seeking information. 

While my friends discussed the tragedy on social media, I was encouraged to hear how many people chose to watch one or several of the local news stations to find out what was transpiring in this city. And, it was less than a month ago when many residents in this part of the state were also watching these local TV stations to find out the latest on Hurricane Florence and its impacts. 

“While it’s true that social media platforms and apps have become a huge factor the way American receive information, only professionals at your local TV stations can put events – like the one that happened today in Florence – into perspective.” – David Baxley

I am a firm believer in the power of broadcast news due to its ability to provide communities with minute-by-minute updates other mediums simply cannot. While it’s true that social media platforms and apps have become a huge factor in the way American receive information, only professionals at your local TV stations can put events – like the one that happened today in Florence – into perspective. A balanced, sensitive and ethical approach to news coverage was portrayed while still providing residents the news they needed.

WBTWWDPE SCWMBF SC

At a time when gatekeepers are lacking due to the barrage of information coming at us on social media these days, broadcast news outlets have the ability to provide clarity. It’s only through trust that we believe in the power of broadcast journalism. News reporters and anchors put our life into perspective.

The local stations in the Florence/Myrtle Beach market deserve recognition in their professionalism. Covering two major events in less than a month takes its toll.

Life-saving information coming from trusted news professionals, who believe in the SPJ Code of Ethics, will sustain local TV news for quite some time. Without that connection, our life would not be complete.

David Baxley is Assistant Professor of Mass Communications, Francis Marion University, and  SPJ South Carolina President. Baxley worked in broadcast news since 1999. He is also a meteorologist. Before entering academia in 2016, Baxley worked as an investigative producer at WIAT-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, for two years. Baxley is a regular contributor to the SPJ Region 3 website, SizingUpTheSouth.com. To contact Baxley email him at dtbaxley.spjsc@gmail.com

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