The News Doesn't Sleep -- Except on Weekends

News organizations have lately opted to hire fewer reporters, and to cut newsrooms' Saturday staffs. As NPR and Reuters issued erroneous reports of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' death this weekend, the downside of such cuts seems clear.
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NEW ORLEANS -- Back when Princess Diana died, it was already happening. Now it's gotten much worse.

"It" is the thinning out of news -- especially broadcast news -- ranks on the weekends. Princess Di's horrific accident happened on a Saturday, just like the shocking shooting incident in Tuscon. "News happens", to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, and it also happens on weekends.

Yet news organizations, and the bean-counters who run them, have consistently made two decisions in recent years. First, it's cheaper (and more ratings-productive) to hire bookers to Rolodex in vituperative guest yakkers than it is to hire reporters; Second it's cheaper (screw the ratings!) to have far fewer employees working on Saturdays. Sundays get a few more humans, to produce the yak shows.

Could this trend have anything to do with the egregious error NPR -- and then Reuters -- made in jumping to the conclusion that Rep. Giffords had been killed in the assassination attempt? A few more hands on deck might have led to better reporting. At least, that's going to be my assumption, unless proven otherwise.

But, rest assured: As with the aftermath of the Diana story, broadcast media will swarm-cover this story in the week to come. By next Saturday, the newsrooms will be manned by another skeleton shift.

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