Monday, March 14, 2005

CNN Shines In Coverage of Atlanta Courthouse Shooting And Aftermath

The CNN network, which has had its troubles of late, can take pride in its superb coverage of the Atlanta courthouse shootings by Brian Nichols, the manhunt for Nichols, and his peaceful capture, thanks to the heroism of his hostage, 26-year-old Ashley Smith.

The CNN.com website posts an interview with Smith in its entirety this morning, March 14, and it is a dramatic account of how this gallant woman turned things around once she was taken hostage by Smith at her Duluth, Ga. apartment in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Nichols himself is a tragic figure. How did he go so far off the tracks, and how did this young woman bring him back and get him to release her and peacefully surrender? It is a dramatic story which we will hear much of in the coming days. The world, it is clear, needs more Ashley Smiths.

But, for CNN, this too was one of its proudest moments. The coverage was carefully done in what, of course, is CNN's home town. Even at the dramatic moment of capture, the CNN newscaster did not overly hype matters. Sources were carefully identified, and the newscasters weren't reaching.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also had fine moments in its coverage, but when I went to its website Monday morning to read its account of the interview with Smith, I found I was required to fill in a massive amount of personal information, including my home address, e-mail, telephone number and a list of my personal likes and dislikes, before I could access its website. Finally, I gave up and erased all my information, quitting the website out of disgust and fear that once I became part of the Journal-Constitution's system I would be hearing from them constantly and forever.

When I went then to the CNN website, there was no required registration, no questions to answer. I got the interview with Smith right away and at full length. What an inspiration this woman is!

One lesson of this is that these websites make a critical mistake if they require a party to register and give so much information as a preliminary step. It should be possible to wait on registration until a party such as myself has contacted the website several times and proved a continuing interest. Under those circumstances, registration is desirable, and I would have been willing.

In the meantimes, let's hope we learn more about both Nichols and Smith. There are lessons to be learned from this story, unlike the sordid Michael Jackson case.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The AJC registration form is indeed intimidating, but...speaking from experience...they don't follow up if you use made up identities and information.

3/14/2005 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget, you don't have to tell the truth on these registration forms. Make stuff up!

3/14/2005 5:22 PM  
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