Notes from Ferguson: ‘Don’t feel intimidated by the national/international press’

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Since Saturday, local media in St. Louis have covered the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. National media joined them, and on Friday, the story made the front pages of newspapers in the U.S. and around the world. We checked in with several newsroom leaders and asked them the same questions about their work, the competition and the best and worst of what they’ve seen. This is part six in our series.

Chad Garrison is the editor of the Riverfront Times. He answered these questions via email.

1. What is the most important thing you’ve told your staff as they cover this story?

I’ve tried to encourage them to get out there and report the story. Don’t feel intimidated by the national/international press and don’t feel that this story is somehow beyond the scope of a tiny newsroom (three full-time news reporters) like ours. We were on this story from the beginning and people are recognizing our ability to fully and accurately report the story.

2. Give us an example of the best coverage you’ve produced or seen?

Our managing editor, Jessica Lussenhop, led it off. Her coup of getting inside the home of the victim and interviewing the parents established our beachhead before the media throng parachuted into town on Monday.

3. What’s the worst?

I haven’t had time, frankly, to mull over all the mistakes we’ve made. One thing that comes immediately to mind, however, was a headline we wrote about Michael Brown’s music. Our music editor listened to the music and upload some of his tracks which fall under the “gangster rap” genre of hip-hop. The headline used that description and started a firestorm on Twitter from those who only read the headline. They thought we were implying that Brown was a gang member. We ended up changing the headline b/c the backlash was so harsh.

4. Do you see a difference in national and local coverage of this story?

Overall what I’ve seen from the national media is pretty fair I think. I’ve laughed a few times at watching the talking heads on TV make some glaring mistakes in their “facts” about St. Louis and Ferguson. Overall though, I credit the 24-hour cable news demand to actually pushing us to report non-stop on this.

Previously: Brian Thouvenot, news director of KMOV-TV; Gilbert Bailon, editor-in-chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Joe Lamie, managing editor of KTVI; Margaret Wolf Freivogel, editor of St. Louis Public Radio; Chris King, editorial director of The St. Louis American

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