Print and television journalists don’t always get along and as an ink-stained wretch, I continue to despair at the level of national cable political coverage — and increasingly the network news as well.
Lester Holt advanced my theory that a lot of anchors have just tossed in the news towel and do professional wrestling commentary — in between product plugs of their network programming. He nearly levitated the other day conveying the exciting day of mud slinging among the Republican candidates capped off by Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump. I expected Holt and a reincarnated Gorgeous George to throw a chair into the ring, tag-team Rubio and body slam Christie.
So when I traveled to cover the US Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation into the sinking of the SS El Faro earlier this month, I was prepared for a similar sort of infotainment.
What I got instead was wall-to-wall intelligent assessments by real journalists. The reporters tag teamed the hearings and “instant blogged” them as well. They probed into the arcane world of maritime America, and gave some pretty good accountings of how the American Bureau of Shipping treated inspections.
There were dramatic moments of course. The last words of the captain. The testimony of the USCG rescue swimmer, who recovered a body but had to leave it because another call came in reporting a potential survivor.
But the reporters and the reports did not stop there. Most of the television stations went the full ten days, staffed and stoked. They streamed the entire procession — and used a two camera shoot to do that.
The coverage, particularly from Scott Johnson at NewsJax4 and Ken Amaro at First Coast News, was tough, accurate and fair. At some point during the coverage, I would find myself checking in with their posts and broadcasts to see what I might have missed. I don’t miss much, so that’s a compliment.
This gives me great hope. El Faro is not the only sinking ship in America today and local newspapers too often are foundering. It’s good news that in Jacksonville, the electronic version of the Fourth Estate is alive and well — and actually quite sharp.