Media Coverage of the First Day of School


There are some good questions and some interesting responses posted here on CJR’s discussion about the media’s coverage of the first day at a new school for the first-daughters-to-be.

I think the media certainly had the right to be there, and if they chose not to because they thought it was better for the girls or because they had other news to report, then that’s their right too. I don’t think the Today show should be penalized for not covering it. I do think it was a little juvenile of them to say “We’re here at the school before they get here to say we’re going to leave before they get here.” The story could have been reported without the live feed from the school and been just as useful and to the point.

Some of the commenters make the point that Obama showcased his children during the campaign so that makes it OK for the media to showcase them now. And I agree. He’s chosen to be in a public position and thus made that choice for his  family too. As previously stated, the media has the right to do report on or highlight the president’s family and children. But having the right do something and being required or expected to do something aren’t the same. The media has the responsibility of providing news to its viewers/readers. Was it news that the president-elect’s daughters were starting their new school? Sure. Was it worth noting on the national news programs? Yes. But I don’t think it was worth live feeds and paparazzi-like treatment.

Overall, I think the news agencies handled it well, even if they didn’t all do the same thing. In fact, it’s great they didn’t all do the same thing! Who wants cookie-cutter news? (Not I.) I particularly thought ABC’s Charlie Gibson added a nice human side to the story with his own personal tale about his first day at the same school.

GIBSON: Today was their first day in a new school. Sidwell Friends, a private Quaker school….Don’t we all remember our first days in a new school? I am a Sidwell graduate, started in seventh grade, went through high school. My first day, many years ago, but you remember every detail of something like that. Would anybody talk to me at lunch? The teacher gave us a mountain of homework, I couldn’t finish it all. I remember the first person who did talk to me, and the girl across the aisle in home room didn’t talk to me. Hopefully the president’s daughters will have an easier transition.

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