I just fumbled away our 15 minutes of fame

A staffer for National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” just called the newsroom looking for Tom Lawrence, who wrote stories for today’s Daily Republic about the recent heat wave. The stories focused on cattle deaths across the state and the difficulties people have had finding air conditioners to buy at local stores.

I told the NPR staffer that Tom is on a scheduled day off today. The staffer said the show just wanted somebody to talk about the heat wave and “the droughts that are happening” and how those things are impacting people.

First of all, I said, we’ve been flooded for months, so the heat wave is kind of a welcome change. Secondly, the cattle deaths were spread across the state, and we haven’t been able to track down any that happened close to Mitchell. I offered these things by way of explanation in case I ended up trying to fill radio airtime with a lot of blather about a crisis that isn’t really a crisis.

The staffer persisted with more questions, and I told him I probably wouldn’t have much to add beyond what Tom’s stories said. Some cattle have died, and some people are having trouble with their air-conditioning. That’s about it. As far as we know, no people in our area have died or even been hospitalized because of the heat. In fact, it’s not unusual at all to have 100-degree days in late July in South Dakota. I told the staffer I could go on his show and say that, but he wasn’t interested.

I kind of regret not playing up the situation, because it would have been an opportunity to drive traffic to our website. I just felt that if I or anybody else from the newsroom went on national radio, we’d feel obligated to sensationalize the story in order to justify our appearance on the show.

Perhaps I’m under-selling the story, but 100-degree days in July haven’t been something that have gotten me very worked up during my 30-plus years living in South Dakota. Or, maybe I’m blind to the gravity of this story. I’m sure you’ll tell me.

5 thoughts on “I just fumbled away our 15 minutes of fame

  1. Funny how this sounds like the reporter was trying to make the story fit the one they’d already written in their mind rather than just report the story.

    Good for you. Did you call his news director and let him know that this reporter made every other reporter’s job harder?

  2. Oops…should have been …and let him/her know that this reporter mad every other reporter’s job harder.

    See how easy it is to have a preconceived notion.

    • I don’t think NPR was trying to push anything on us. I just think they assumed things were worse here than they are. The cattle deaths are bad — don’t get me wrong. But we’re cooling down into the 80s already today. It just doesn’t feel like a full-on crisis to me.

      Also, isn’t it funny that we never heard from NPR last summer when we were reporting on record hailstones, dam-busting rains, creeks so swollen they were picking up big round hay bales like boats, winds so strong they were blowing over decades-old trees, and other calamities? Then, this year, we get a few 100-degree days and we get national attention.

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