See No Evil...
By Eliza Newlin Carney
Eliza Newlin Carney is associate editor of the National Journal.
L ooking for a good crime scene video, complete with pools of blood and murder victims in body bags? Don't expect it on Channel 13's 5:30 p.m. newscast in Albuquerque.
KRQE is one of at least three stations nationwide to exclude graphic footage from its early evening newscast to foster a "family sensitive" program. KGUN in Tucson and WCCO in Minneapolis also have removed such footage from their first nightly newscasts, which begin at 5 p.m.
News directors at all three stations say they're responding to growing complaints from parents who say they can't sit down and watch the news with their children because they never know what may pop up.
And crime reports are more prevalant. At the network level, coverage of crime more than doubled during 1993, according to a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, and included a 300 percent increase in coverage of murders – despite a negligible change in the overall crime rate.
Ed Bewley, chairman of Audience Research & Development, a Dallas-based firm that advises all three stations, says as many as 10 other stations are considering bloodless broadcasts.
The response from viewers in Albuquerque has been positive, says KRQE News Director Jim Loy. While critics might see family newscasts as censorship of "bad" news, Loy says no content is being withheld – only gruesome footage. Viewers who want that, he says, can watch the news at 10.
In Tucson, KGUN News Director Bill Cummings predicts that bloodless newscasts will improve television news by challenging reporters to examine how and why crimes happen rather than relying on graphic video.