Maybe it was with the advent of cable news. Or maybe someone just came up with the idea that if they could make the news more interesting and entertaining, more people would watch, the ratings would go up, and more money could be made. Whatever the cause, the newscast as we knew it changed. Even the stories, or types of story, have changed. Things that made page three of the local newspapers in the fifties and sixties are now part of the headlines. What middle-aged man from Middle America killed his wife and almost got away with it, or what teacher is having an affair with her underage student? Things that were not considered newsworthy back then, or were just swept under the rug, have become part of the headline hype. The stories that really have no impact on the day-today lives of the majority of viewers are the very stories that they become fascinated with and have come to demand from their news.
These stories have to have someone to tell them, and that's where I come in. I represent the people who have the news that the American public is hungry for. That hunger has created my job. This is where it becomes a little complicated. People want to be able to take for granted that the information they receive from their news is accurate. They don't want to feel that they have to second guess the information being provided to them. At the same time, they want to get as much information as possible -- at least as much information as they find interesting.
The public is becoming more knowledgeable of how the media machine works and expects more details with their news. The networks know that if a story can grab the public's attention and they can present the story in a way that is entertaining as well as informative, the ratings will improve. With this in mind, they have to dig deeper and be ready to report on different aspects of a story in a way that will hold the public's interest. It is this relentless need to maintain a top position in the ratings war that creates an inherent danger of reporting something other than the truth.
Part of my job is like that of an investigative reporter/ producer/journalist -- to dig through the facts and make absolutely sure the information I relay to the news agencies is accurate. Literally hundreds of stories are run past me every month, and, at the risk of sounding cliché, many times I have little more than my gut instinct to filter out the truth from the myths -- at least at first. I don't rely strictly on gut feelings to verify the information brought to me, but I have to admit, in the last twenty-five years of bringing the "Oh, my God" stories to the news agencies, my gut feelings are exactly what have kept me out of hot water. Not one of the pieces I have brought to the news has proven to be false. Often, it was nothing more than a gut feeling that stopped me from pursuing a story, which was later found to be a lie.
The bigger the story, the more important it is to be diligent. In April 1995, the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, where more than 160 people lost their lives, shocked the nation. At first, the news agencies led the American public to assume it was a terrorist attack from outside the country; but when evidence revealed it was an American that was suspect, the media had to change gears, and the hunt for any information on Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh was on.