Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great Miami Car Chase of 2010: grading the coverage

Image by Jason Weitzman - WPLG - Click on all images to enlarge.

A routine police pursuit in Miami this morning quickly evolved into a nationally televised car chase.

(See WPLG's raw video of the chase and aftermath by clicking here. - NOTE: there is no audio on the tape.)

The event produced some dramatic pictures and also highlighted some glaring differences in the way breaking news is now covered in Miami in 2010.

As news stories go, this one will be a distant memory two weeks from now.

But for 45 minutes this morning, a riveting police chase shoved aside silly game shows on South Florida TV screens.

As a result, a few in Miami's media community performed professionally. And a afew others stumbled.

The story began at about 11am this morning when several Miami police officers started chasing a robbery suspect in a blue Ford Expedition.

TV news choppers were soon broadcasting live pictures that eventually made their way to Fox News and MSNBC.

WSVN's Ralph Rayburn and his chopper pilot followed the car as it sped up Biscayne Blvd and 81st Street where the suspect turned left and headed west towards I-95.

Miami police close in on robbery suspect early in chase - Image by Ralph Rayburn - WSVN

By the time the suspect jumped on I-95, CBS4 and WPLG - who share a chopper - had also broken into programming with the dramatic chase pictures.

NBC6 continued with its insipid 11am morning show. They got rid of their chopper a few years ago.

WSVN's Rayburn cooly delivered a top-notch description of the action, all while keeping his camera trained on the chase. (Click here to see Rayburn's video.)

Same for WPLG anchor Kristi Krueger. She anchored the station's coverage from the studio with a deliberate and restrained delivery that showed her knowledge of Miami.

Things were a little different over at CBS4. Thirty-year veteran newsman Eliott Rodriguez, who in the past few years has somehow managed to morph into Miami's very own Ron Burgundy, delivered his description of the action in a style that can best be described as excited and disjointed. At times Rodriguez sounded like he was hyperventilating.

At about 11:30am, the chase ended when the car smashed into the rear of a silver tanker truck at the off ramp of I-95 and Hallandale Beach Blvd.

Robbery suspect crashes - Image by Robin Russell - WPLG

It was at this point that Rodriguez breathlessly informed viewers that the car had smashed into a "gasoline tanker." Rodriguez kept repeating this mis-information several times until someone off-camera loudly informed him that it was an orange juice tanker. WSVN's Rayburn had broadcast this information minutes before.

And how did the Miami Herald report this? Well, they might have reported it immediately had they known about it.

While pictures of the chase were being broadcast live on national cable news channels, the Herald newsroom was blissfully ignorant of the drama being played out on streets just a few miles from its downtown headquarters.

A caller to the newsroom was told that they hadn't heard anything about the chase.

Within minutes of the crash, many TV stations swarmed the scene with photographers and reporters.

Channel 10 photojournalist Jason Weitzman was a standout. Arriving on the scene within minutes of the crash, he captured the morning's most dramatic ground level video of the smoking wreckage and the suspect sticking his arms out of the driver's window as cops aimed their weapons.

Image by Jason Weitzman - WPLG

The Herald finally put up a story...reported by news partner CBS4.

Meanwhile the breaking news section of the paper's website contained links to stories about People Magazine's sexiest man alive and Eva Longoria's possible divorce.

NBCMiami put up a story that misidentified Hallandale Beach Blvd. as Hallandale Beach Road and that early on was illustrated with a stock shot of a police car.

So how are we grading this morning's coverage?

Ralph Rayburn, WSVN - A plus
Kristi Krueger, WPLG - A plus
Jason Weitzman, WPLG - A plus
Eliott Rodriguez, CBS4 - D minus
NBC Miami - F
Miami Herald - unable to grade, did not complete this morning's assignment


  1. i think all of them should have saved some money and just ran a clip of an LA chase. I'm sure there's a good file clip somewhere.

  2. Sheesh, hwas I supposed to know about an exciting car chase? The Herald was listing as "breaking news" the following: Brandy numb over being cut from Dancing with the Stars


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