Wednesday, June 08, 2011

In Praise of Local News

Often bloggers are accused of being the antithesis of traditional journalists and news media because of what seems to be our constant criticism of them. I want to take a moment to offer a little bit of praise for the guys and gals who work studiously for local news outlets.

It is because of the efforts of a couple of reporters for the Chicago Tribune that we became aware of how the Obamas rose to power and used the Chicago political machine to remove obstacles to their ambitions. Another recent case has been the shooting of Iraqi war veteran Guerena by the Pima County police force. The reporters there have worked tirelessly to piece together the story and get the information out. Both of those cases represent just how inadequate the big boys can be at reporting and reflect great credit upon those working on the local level.

Now comes another case that, while lacking the drama, is nonetheless important because it involves a group near and dear to my heart, our US military.

The story started with a YouTube video, like so many stories seem to trace their origins to nowadays, from a couple of NCO's complaining about baggage fees they were charged by Delta Airlines on their return from Afghanistan. At first blush, this story was unthinkable, but thanks to the work of some reporters at a local Atlanta channel, 11 Alive, we got more of the story and indeed got the ball rolling on getting the matter addressed.

The first kudo goes to Bill Liss, a consumer reporter for the channel who, upon being made aware of the video, went straight to the sourc--Delta Airlines--to get their side of the story. At that time, Delta issued the standard no comment. 11 Alive hosts an interactive portion of their newscast once their on-air presentation is over and it was during this session that they got a real sense of just how much this story meant to their viewers. The host Brenda Woods and producer Chris Sweigart began asking questions of those participating in the live chat and also informing them of what questions they were going to pursue. Watching this in action was fascinating, and the sense of commitment they conveyed to get to the bottom of the story came through, so I sat with crossed fingers to see what would happen.

I knew not to expect much overnight, but on each subsequent newscast they provided updates on the story. Right now the story stands at Delta issuing a statement promising to look into the matter, but thanks to the efforts of the 11 Alive crew they aren't letting Delta sit behind a mere statement and I expect that further action will be taken.

In fairness to Delta, they are not the only airline charging service members baggage fees. The reporters uncovered that United and Continental also do. For most travelers, they are probably wondering why baggage fees for service members is such a big deal. We all have to pay them, after all. True, but how many of you as a condition of employment must deploy for a year to war zone then pack up all of your worldly possessions, including your military issued gear, and return back to your home office? It is the charging of service members for having to carry their required equipment that causes the heartburn. Like the soldier in the video states, his fourth bag contained an M4 outfitted with a grenade launcher and a 9mm pistol, items that the TSA sort of frown upon as carry-on luggage.

Anyway, I just wanted to start your day out with a little bit of good news concerning our mass market media, but I have stated many times in the past that the local guys do a far better job then the national guys, and if you want to get to the root of a story you need to visit the source and not rely on the big guys. Also, I want to send more praise to the 11 Alive folks, who awhile back promised to present a newscast that was not merely a recap of the police blotter report and for making their news more engaging for their viewers. They host the interactive sessions several times a day, including an editorial session around 3 PM everyday for folks to sit in on to provide input on the stories that will make it on air during their regular 6 PM newscast. For folks in Georgia I encourage you check out the 11 Alive web site and get a glimpse of what the future of news is going to be. Interactive, engaged, with realtime feedback and more in touch with those whom they serve.

UPDATE: From Delta
After careful consideration, effective immediately, U.S. military personnel traveling on orders in First and Business Class can check up to five bags at no charge. This change also adds dependents traveling with active military on orders. Each bag may weigh up to 70 lbs. (32 kg) and measure up to 80 linear inches (203 cm), which offers added flexibility over the standard 50 lbs. and 62 linear inches (157 cm) allotment. Because of weight, balance and space constraints, Delta Connection carriers will accept up to four bags at no charge. You can read the updates to the travel policy on
Before we get too excited, however, I need to point out that this policy only applies to those flying in First/Business class. Most, if not all military fly in coach, so I am not sure this change will have much if any impact. C'mon, Delta, you've got to do better.

Correction: While not contained in the explanation on the blog site, on their parent site they do list the new rules and indeed those flying in economy class are now allowed 4 bags at no charge.
Active duty U.S. military personnel traveling on orders to or from duty stations are allowed up to four checked bags in Economy Class and up to five checked bags in First and Business Class on Delta and Delta Connection® carriers at no charge. Each bag may weigh up to 70 lbs. (32 kg) and measure up to 80 linear inches (203 cm).
Thanks, Delta, for making this right.

I still give all the credit to the folks at WXIA 11 Alive in Atlanta who pursued this matter and I hope they continue to pursue it until Delta realizes that the military doesn't fly First Class, especially on unit moves like this one.

1 comment:

James Hlavac said...

I have always kind of thought that active duty military personnel, when having to fly commercial flights, as part of their jobs, should fly free. I personally would like some soldiers on my flights, lest someone goes crazy and help is needed. Perhaps the airline could get a tax break for having done it, or just been patriotic and said, "thanks for protecting us." But charging them for baggage is way out of line. It's like making firetrucks stop to pay the tolls.

And it is true that local news, and even weeklies, and community papers, are far better at getting to the root of a story -- it's got more of an impact on them, since they're local. The big boys, as you call then, are way too busy with their careers and looking good to actually know anything, or learn anything. And to them, DC, and perhaps NYC's fancy-schmancy circuit is their "local" and thus that leaves out any desire to grasp what is going on in the country.