An anchor explains how and why some stories "die"
"You should be ashamed of yourself," the viewer's email began.
Naturally, I read on with interest.
"Not once during the broadcast, was there a story on the SLU Men's Basketball game on Tuesday night. Just for the record, SLU beat Rhode Island."
An angry email with a valid point. The truth is, the Wednesday edition of Today in St. Louis did cover the Billikens victory over Rhode Island from the night before, just not when this particular viewer was watching. In fact, there were big plans to run highlights of SLU's Jordair Jett scoring a career-high 31 points in the Bills A-10 conference opening win precisely when this fan was watching Today in St. Louis.
But the truth is: the story died. It got killed.
Ghoulish as it sounds, even though we put together a fresh, fast-paced three hour LIVE newscast every morning, there is a lot of dying.
Not death in the way you might think; news stories die. Lots of them. Every day.
In fact, this morning, due to weather and traffic, our producer got in our earpieces and warned of an upcoming "bloodbath".
The stories in our rundown are assigned an alpha-numeric page number. This morning, one of our producers shouted out: "D-1, D-2, D-3, D-4, D-5, D-8, D-11, and D-12...ALL DEAD! More kills are coming. Stay tuned!"
Other times, a producer will just tell us the title of the story that has died for time and space reasons. This can often be hilarious, if you're in the mood.
"The Rally Squirrel is dead, Honey Boo Boo's dad...dead...and I'll probably kill Dennis Rodman, stay tuned!"
I'm not sure where this tradition started in TV news. We're often accused of dwelling on the darker side of human nature. Maybe this is a work-related symptom.
Oddly, the reverse is not true. For instance; when a new story is added, our producer doesn't proudly declare in our earpieces:
"Metro Bus fire in Maplewood, just BORN!"
Our talented stable of news producers go into every shift hoping there will be no "kills", real world or otherwise. But each morning newscast has to remain fluid and adapt to changes in the real world. That often means breaking news stories that affect a huge number of people (traffic jams, severe weather, school closings) will trump lighter fare (sports, show biz, etc).
We realize we can't be all things, to all people, all of the time. But we try. We really do.
So back to our angry Saint Louis U hoops fan. He closed his email with this final shot.
"If you are unable to remember what city the station is in, perhaps you should step aside."
I wrote him back immediately and told him he had a fair and valid point. Angry viewers often do.
Outside of Frank Cusumano, and maybe others I'm not aware of, there isn't a bigger SLU hoops fan at KSDK than yours truly (SLU '94).
I watched the SLU-URI game. As a viewer, I would have cared more about SLU highlights than water main breaks. But I would have been in the minority.
I didn't fight to put the SLU highlights back into the rundown on Wednesday because it didn't deserve the time and space we needed, in the grand scheme of things.
Sadly, on this day, in this newscast, the SLU highlights deserved to be "killed". The story "died" an honorable death.
And trust me, angry SLU fan/viewer, come March, SLU highlights will always, ALWAYS live a long, fruitful life.