About last night...
I can say with some certainty that the discussion in our newsroom at this time yesterday was the same discussion taking place in so many other newsrooms, broadcast and print, around the country: Where and how to play the Anna Nicole Smith story. Some of my colleagues thought it was the lead story. Others did not. I did not. Others pointed to the drop-everything, wall-to-wall live coverage all day on all three cable networks. To that argument I responded that I worked in cable for several years. I know cable. Cable is a friend of mine. We are not cable. Is it a news story? Yes. People have a funny way of deciding for themselves what is a news story sometimes, and those drawn to the coverage, and to her, can explain the interest in this 39-year-old former Playboy centerfold better than I can. In writing the lead to our coverage last night, I tried to indicate that her popularity may have more to do with our current media/celebrity culture than we realize.
Deciding the format of this broadcast (and those of our friends at ABC and CBS) is, last night and tonight, a classic example of one of our guiding expressions -- no organization can ever be "above the news." While public interest in a given topic cannot rule our judgment or decide our story order for us, it can and does affect our reporting and story order. It's not as if there aren't other news outlets for those viewers dissatisfied with our treatment of the story and the end of a tragic life. People watch our broadcast presumably because they trust our reporting and our people, and because they agree with our editorial take on the day more often than not. The great thing about this era of media choice is that all those who find our broadcast lacking in any way are free to go to any number of Web sites where they can find video showing a cat flushing a toilet, or the explosive properties of Diet Coke and Mentos when mixed together.
We're not cultural arbiters or enforcers -- we are a network of journalists who put together a half-hour long newscast each evening. Tonight our broadcast will concentrate on the underpinnings of the war in Iraq and the first-hand account of one of our correspondents who is embedded with an American combat team -- and who earlier today came way too close to an IED explosion while on patrol. We'll end the broadcast as we always do on Friday nights, with a segment profiling someone who is truly making a difference in society.
On the topic of Anna Nicole Smith and the ongoing and ubiquitous coverage, I'd like to step aside and feature a piece of writing that Chris Colvin of our staff came across today and brought to my attention: It's reprinted (with our thanks) here with permission from the Philadelphia Daily News blog called "ATTYTOOD," the work of senior writer Will Bunch.
This is a special report.
Normally at this hour, we bring you some lighter fare, maybe the latest dumb comment from the world of sports, or even a tear-jerker like a picture of stranded polar bears. But tonight, there is one story that is so important that we are going to suspend all regular blog coverage, and ignore everything else that is going on in the world, from the presidential race to the gridlock in the halls of Congress to the indictment of the most powerful politician here in our hometown of Philadelphia.
This breaking news story is about the sudden, unexpected, and tragic death of a young woman, not to mention the family that she leaves behind.
Yes, people die every day, and too many do so before their time. But this woman was special, and the things that she did made an impact on all of us.
Oh, there were many things that this woman, so deserving of our undivided attention tonight, did not do. No, she didn't take off her clothes for a men's magazine for a big payday, work as "an exotic dancer" or marry a billionaire customer who was 63 years older than her. Nor did she spend most of her adult life pursuing that billionaire's estate in courtrooms from Texas to Washington, D.C., or record her life for a reality TV show, or abuse drugs, or give birth to a child whose paternity is the focus of a legal battle.
Frankly, we feel silly for even writing those things, because such a woman would clearly not be newsworthy.
No, unlike some women you might see on your newsstand this week, this woman liked simple things: According to one report, she "always enjoyed the water, including boating and scuba diving. She also liked yoga and music and spending time with family and friends."
This is what her aunt says about this unique woman that America mourns tonight:
"If you knew her, you loved her. She was a go-getter. She knew what she wanted in life and she was doing what she had to do to achieve that."
Her name is Jennifer M. Parcell. She was just 20 years old, and she graduated in 2004 from Fallston High School near her hometown of Bel Air, Md.
A couple of years ago, Jennifer Parcell went to Parris Island and watched the Marine graduation services for her older brother, Joseph. She decided that she, too, wanted to join the Marines, and eventually both Jennifer Parcell and her brother were sent to Iraq, even serving at the same post for a time.
But then, they separated. Yesterday, Jennifer Parcell was supporting combat operations in Al-Anbar province when she was killed in action.
Click here to read the rest from ATTYTOOD.
BACK TO THE NEWS
We hope you have a good weekend, and please join us for the Friday edition of NBC Nightly News. I'll see you again on Monday.
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