Twitter Hates KRON-4 Coverage of Oscar Grant Protests
Around 11 p.m., as things appeared to be winding down, Mike Monteiro tweeted, "Thankfully, most of the protesters today were peaceful. With only a few inciting violence. And they all worked at @kron4news."
"According to KRON4 Foot Locker was the victim tonight, shittiest reporting ever," opined Raven Brooks, the executive director of Netroots Nation.
The Chronicle's pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub chimed in, "KRON folks must be nervous, wondering if we'll discover the apocalypse they were describing didn't happen."
An indicator of the buzz about KRON last night: At some point, someone busted out with a #KRON4SUCKS discussion hashtag.
So what made KRON's coverage of the post-verdict aftermath so bad? Local media-watcher Rich Lieberman accused the station's reporters of "fanning the flames" on his blog two hours after the verdict came down. Lieberman said reporter Jeff Bush was "going ga-ga with lots of words like 'tense' and 'frantic.' Bad, Bad KRON."
While KRON commentators' loud disbelief at how rioters could be allowed to destroy property in the vicinity of police seemed, to some observers, to be an open exhortation to cops to fire up the billy clubs, it was announcers' malapropisms that induced the most snark. At one point, a KRON commentator described a phalanx of cops running in unison by saying something along the lines of "maybe they're running just because that's how they're moving."
This, she later explained, was just to note that some units are trained to run in unison rather than march; it didn't necessarily imply a dire emergency. But the quote was splashed on Twitter nevertheless. As was "The crowd really feels like Oscar Grant died." Can't explain that one offhand, no.
Not everyone thought KRON did a horrible job. SFist editor Brock Keeling suggested a mob mentality had prevailed on Twitter: "I'm confused: Why such hate for KRON 4's verdict coverage? Seemed pretty thorough for such a chaotic scene."
It also warrants mentioning that only KRON was covering the riots continuously -- for hours. Put even a trained reporter live on-air covering a developing situation for hours on end and foolish things will be uttered. Don't forget Dan Rather chirping out a plethora of quotes such as "We used to say if a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a handgun" during the 2000 election night deadlock and other tense situations. As awkward as KRON's coverage got, much of the Twitter sniping came off as classic Internet armchair-quarterbacking.
KRON was purchased by Young Broadcasting in 1999 for $823 million -- but NBC dropped its longtime affiliation with the station in 2001. According to bankruptcy documents filed earlier this year, the station is now valued at a fraction of what Young paid for it -- $25 million to $50 million. Perhaps not surprisingly, KRON has pioneered cost-cutting measures such as sending reporters out with their own cameras to essentially serve as journalists, cameramen, and producers. Another cost-saving measure is to air programming that looks suspiciously like news content but is actually sponsored by commercial interests. In short, the station is not currently regarded as a bastion of journalistic excellence.
Perhaps one saving grace for the station: While people expressed outrage about KRON throughout the night, they also didn't vote with their remote controls and turn the channel. In other words, bad coverage is better than no coverage -- and may not mean bad ratings.
Joe Eskenazi contributed to this story.
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