COLUMBIA - On July 22, KOMU 8 News brought you a story about what happens when parking meters in Columbia malfunction. Some viewers didn't think it merited coverage and thought the story was a waste of time. Reporter Lexi Spivak looked at whether the help line the city has set up to take complaints about meters was really effective. Despite multiple calls, nobody answered her call.
KOMU 8 News Content Manager Matt Johnson originally assigned Spivak to the story and he said it was newsworthy. "Well I think a lot of people use parking meters in Columbia. Anybody that lives in the city uses them on a regular basis, and I think the fact that nobody's answering the phone during parts of the day that you're required to pay the meters if you have trouble is certainly an issue that affects a lot of people," Johnson said.
Some viewers didn't think it was worth covering. Viewer Jackie Bicknell posted this comment on our facebook page, "Hmmmm how about we talk about a real concern in Columbia. Say I don't know gang violence, murder, shootings? But no lets report on parking meters sure that will help the city!!!!"
Crime is always a hot topic that attracts a lot of attention, but it can be a touchy issue to cover. Veteran journalist and current MU professor emeritus Roger Gafke said there's a danger in always focusing on crime, and focusing on it the wrong way. Gafke said, "Being preoccupied with crime stories at that superficial level distorts the community also. There's lots more to life and in that sense a parking meter story might be entirely appropriate."
KOMU 8 News also spoke with high school journalism teacher Serge Danielson-Francois, who was in town this week for a conference at the university. Danielson-Francois, who teaches in Detroit, agreed with Gafke's perspective on crime. "News sometimes has a tendency to do superficial coverage of crime. That is, you only get a sense for perpetrators and victims but not the environment in which the crime was perpetrated, or the environment from which it emerged," Danielson-Francois said.
So KOMU 8 News tries to pursue more comprehensive coverage when it comes to crime. Johnson explained, "We try to focus when we do focus on crime, trends in the community that maybe is effecting everybody. Is there an increase in burglaries, is there a string of burglaries in a certain area: that affects more people than just you know one specific crime."