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General Question: Why Are Auto Accidents News?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Pete Incaviglia, Jul 17, 2009.

  1. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    It seems like every paper I've worked at - and there have been five - a car crash is always news; at the very least, a photo.


    I can see it being news if someone prominent dies (i.e. a politician, athlete, philanthropist, or small children).

    And, I can see the extraordinary cases making headlines (the recent Hazel Park tanker truck explosion/overpass story comes to mind).

    But if it's just Joe Blow on the average old county road or city street, it's news.


    Just curious, because I've been inundated with wrecks this week.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    We usually just write a brief off of the sheriff's department press release. People want to know how safe the roads are. Some in my area are pretty dangerous.
  3. DirtyDeeds

    DirtyDeeds Guest

    I can think of three reasons off the top of my head that make car crashed newsworthy.
    1. Someone dies or is seriously injured
    2. A major road is closed because of it
    3. It happened at an interection that appears to be unsafe or has an unusual number of accidents.

    Otherwise, it's not news. Maybe a standalone photo if it's compelling, but I wouldn't run any type on a minor crash.
  4. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    Yeah, it just seems everywhere I've worked, it's been news bar none.

    I agree, with DD's reasons, by the way. No. 3 is why I always ask witnesses "is this a particularly bad intersection?" And then I can follow it up with the cops and the city.
  5. budcrew08

    budcrew08 Active Member

    I think it depends on the size of the paper too.
  6. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    It's news because it happens in public and it's of interest to readers. You looked, right?
    If you live in Podunk and you noticed the streets closed off on your way home from work, you expect to see something in tomorrow's paper about the car crash or blown transformer. Obviously, fender benders have no business making the paper because they're not news. But car wrecks, even nonfatals, are part of the fabric of community life, and for that reason readers expect it to be covered. A former sports editor explained at a staff meeting that we cover all the meaningless small-school and 8-man games not because the events are of interest to a significant readership, but because they contribute to the totality of comprehensive coverage that we strived for once upon a time. Like the car crash, I think.
  7. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    Just from personal experience:

    Last month we are driving north on I-75. We see a car that obviously had slid off an overpass and plunged 50-70 feet below to the grass just off our road.

    We were curious. What happened? Did the driver die? What caused such a serious crash?

    Our paper ran a few graphs on it the next day, and I was glad we did.
  8. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Okay, so now I'm curious. What happened? Did the driver die? What caused such a serious crash? Enquiring minds wanna know!! :D
  9. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    Well, from what we can gather in Podunk, people like to read about accidents and the like.

    For example, our breaking news videos get 10 times the Web hits of our feature videos.
  10. gutenberg

    gutenberg Guest

    Pete, great question.

    I think it depends on the size of your town/market. If you are in a small town, everyone will always want to know why the road was closed or the tow truck was at the intersection of Main and First, etc. Got to run something.

    If you are in a county of a million people or so, then only crashes that are major in nature will hit the pages. That's crashes that kill people or have major injuries, etc.

    If you live in New York or Los Angeles, then some crashes where people are killed won't even make the paper.

    So there's no solid and firm answer for your question.
  11. Local TV news will run accident stories all the time. They love the flashing lights, etc, makes a great visual. But like so much of what they do, it's pretty pictures without much story.
  12. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    "It's in-tres-ting when people die, give us dirty laundry."
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