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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

News hawks down

Perhaps now, once and for all, TV news operations will give up this ridiculous practice of broadcasting police chases from helicopters flying overhead.
I used to just laugh at all the live coverage of these chases -- largely a Southern California and Florida thing (though often broadcast nationally by the likes of Fox News and MSNBC) -- because I found it so patently absurd that TV stations, not to mention their viewers, found some sort of entertainment value in aerial footage of police cars following a vehicle down a highway. (I guess we have O.J. Simpson to thank.)
But my laughter turned to outrage on Friday when two news helicopters covering one of these chases collided in the sky over Phoenix, Ariz., and crashed in a park below, killing the two pilots and two cameramen.
Four people are dead, and for what? So that viewers could watch yet another of these silly chases that looked like all the previous chases? Well, I guess the viewers got what they wanted. I mean the only reason people watch these things -- and the only reason TV stations cover them -- is because they hope the chase will end in a horrific, fiery crash that can be shown over and over and over again. And that's exactly what they got: a horrific, fiery crash that's being shown over and over and over again (thanks to footage shot by, you guessed it, other news helicopters that were covering the original chase). Unfortunately, it wasn't the bad guy who was killed, but four men who were doing a job that they never should have been sent to do in the first place.
So perhaps now, once and for all, TV news directors will think twice about putting cameras in the air to cover police chases. And if not, then it behooves the viewers to stop watching these things, because if the news bosses realize public interest has dried up, then surely they will stop wasting the time and money needed to provide the images.
And one more thing: The police chief in Phoenix has hinted that the man whose flight from police was being filmed before the copters crashed could be charged in connection with the four deaths. How ludicrous. Yes, the copters were in the air because of the chase, but it's not like the criminal told them to be up there.
Similarly, if one of our reporters at the Freeman had, God forbid, been killed in a car wreck while rushing to Hudson Valley Mall in 2005 to cover Robert Bonelli's shooting spree, should Bonelli have been held responsible for the accident? Of course not. Media outfits cover news voluntarily -- not because our subjects tell us to -- and we understand the risks that sometimes come with the job.



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