Ten weeks ago, the sheriff, police chief and mayor of Los Angeles joined to demand that television stations stop airing live coverage of police pursuits. Few have been televised since.
News executives say that it’s a coincidence and insist that their long-standing policy of measured, responsible coverage has not changed, the Los Angeles Times reports.
While it may be difficult to assess the results on the street of the recent demands by county Sheriff Lee Baca, Police Chief William J. Bratton and Mayor James K. Hahn, their unusual public crusade has generated discussion in broadcast and academic circles. Joe Domanick, a senior fellow at USC’s Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, believes the law enforcers’ request is reasonable. Balancing potential harm and the good that can be done with a broadcast is an ordinary feature of judging news, says to Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Director Association. For instance, media regularly withhold the identities of victims of violent deaths so officials can notify relatives rather than risk having them learn of personal tragedy from television or newspapers. But if information is readily available elsewhere, the news organization has a right to report it, Cochran said.