Scott Pierce, media writer for The Salt Lake Tribune, has called out NBC affiliate KSL for its coverage of a bomb threat at a local high school Thursday morning.
KSL was the only station to break into regular programming to cover the threat which, The Tribune said, turned out to be a prank. Pierce said the other stations “chose not to sensationalize the threat.”
1. If you break into regular programming to report a bomb threat, you are fanning the flames of hysteria.
If you tuned in to KSL’s coverage on Thursday, you might have thought it was another Columbine or Newtown — simply because it was a live report.
2. If you make a prank into a major news story, you’re encouraging copycats.
The Radio Television Digital News Association recommends caution in reporting bomb threats for reasons including creating copycats, “raising the public’s level of insecurity even when it is not warranted,” and causing the public to become “less responsive when actual danger arises.”
This is not to suggest the East High story should have been ignored. There were early, erroneous reports of shots fired, so news outlets (including The Salt Lake Tribune) sent reporters. A brief story reporting the lockdown appeared on sltrib.com.
But none of the reporting approached the level of the live TV cut-in on Channel 5.
According to TVeyes, KSL cut in at 9:42 a.m. during the third hour Today and stayed on-air until 10:00 a.m.
We’ve asked KSL for comment. We will update when we hear back.