How the Media Balances Coverage of Two Important Stories

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

We are in the midst of two major news stories: Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The media — especially the news networks and major publications — are juggling both stories, either of which would thoroughly dominate the news cycle if not for the other.

On Tuesday afternoon, the main headline on The New York Times website was: “Russia Cracks Down on Dissent as Invasion Stalls.” The websites for The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, NBC News and USA Today all led with Russia-Ukraine.

At the exact same time, the main headline on the website for The Washington Post was “Jackson defends her record from Republican attacks.” The websites for ABC News, Fox News, CBS News and The Boston Globe all led with the Supreme Court.

CNN managed to highlight both equally on its homepage.

But all the major news outlets dedicated resources to covering both stories thoroughly and for good reason — what we are seeing right now could impact the country and world for years to come. This is especially true, of course, when it comes to Ukraine, which will continue to be a major story for the foreseeable future. While what’s happening in Ukraine continues to be bleak, it’s imperative that news organizations keep making it the dominant story — even though audiences likely check out from time to time because the narrative and images are just so depressing.

Only rare stories, such as the Supreme Court hearings and maybe COVID-19, can edge out news outlets leading their coverage with Ukraine.

Interestingly, ABC News actually led its “World News Tonight” newscast with something else completely: severe storms, including a nasty tornado outbreak, sweeping through the southeastern part of the country. It then went to the Jackson story. Then Ukraine.

Anchor David Muir emailed me right after the newscast that the decision was made to lead with the weather because tornado warnings were posted right before they went on the air.

Muir also said that he’s headed back to the Ukraine-Poland border and Warsaw to anchor for the rest of the week. After meeting with NATO and European allies in Brussels, President Joe Biden will be in Warsaw later in the week to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Alarming threats

CNN’s chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, had an exclusive interview Tuesday with Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the interview, Peskov repeatedly refused to rule out using nuclear weapons. When asked under what conditions Putin would use nuclear weapons, Peskov said, “… if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be.”

Peskov admitted that Putin has not yet achieved his goal in Ukraine. Peskov called it a “special military operation” and said it was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand.”

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