TV and Coverage of the Disturbances

I was recently reminded why I am not a fan of TV news--sensationalism versus information. As a student of the Spanish language, I often watch KMEX Channel 34, a Spanish-language station.

On the night of the Rodney G. King court decision and subsequent riots, I began to flip channels. On Channels 2, 4, 5 and 11, I continued to see scenes of shouting, pushing, violence and helicopter scenes of fires--hours of it, with the TV newspeople having to be there, on the scene, or even part of the scene. At first it was fascinating. After a while, I wanted more information and turned back to Channel 34.

There, I saw some of the same scenes repeated, borrowed from another station. But I also got a review of the King case, questions raised on why such a verdict was reached, an interview with a civil rights expert and advice to Latino residents of the areas affected on what to do for safety.

Perhaps Channel 34's coverage benefited from not having resources for helicopters, reporters on the scene, etc. Perhaps the other stations' coverage is the result of a frequent attempt to cater to the sensational and violent. Reporters on the scene are important, but so are solid background information and thoughtful analysis.

ELIZABETH SUSSMAN

Studio City

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