Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Is the circus really necessary to telling the news?


The disappearance of Jennifer Huston the latest cause for TV to descend on Newberg area

The first sign that something was afoot was the arrival of the large electronic news gathering (ENG) trucks. Soon their satellite dishes were lifted into the air and there were cables strung across Howard Street and into the Public Safety Building, where the sharply-dressed “talent” chatted with whoever was talking to them via their ear pieces.

Where usually one would find Newberg Municipal Court and the Newberg City Council, there were instead microphone checks, camera men jostling for position and powerful lights directed at the podium where the family and police officials would hold the press conference.

Yes, the media circus had come to Newberg once again.

The most recent reason for their arrival? The disappearance of Dundee resident Jennifer Huston, who left home July 24 to run some errands and hasn’t been seen since.

Soon, photographs of the pretty blonde woman were all over the airwaves and the Internet. Portland TV stations latched onto the story like a tick on a dog, reporters breathlessly relating even the most mundane information to their viewers. Speculation as to Huston’s whereabouts, rampant on blogs and the comment sections of Web stories, quickly seeped into the TV reporters’ stories as well.

It’s another instance of the story, whether it be a triple murder-suicide in Dundee or a fisherman gone missing near Roger’s Landing, taking a back seat to the spectacle of the electronic media covering it.

You have to wonder why Portland TV, let alone Good Morning America and People magazine, have latched onto this story with such a vengeance. Do people in remote Estacada really care about what’s happening in the Newberg area?

In journalism, there’s a term for those organizations that only swoop in to cover a community’s most spectacular stories: parachute journalism. The other stories, the ones that matter to the community but aren’t that exciting, are not exciting enough for TV and won’t be covered.

From a print journalism standpoint we suspect this phenomenon actually feeds the misinformation of those people following the story and then relating that information to others. In this give-me-the-information-now world, where facts and boots-on-the-ground journalism gets lost in the bright lights and shiny world of TV personalities, ultimately it’s the story that gets lost and that’s a shame.