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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

In a report on WDJT-TV CBS 58, the question is raised about "Kilwaukee" and what it means to the community.

Airing of partial "Kilwaukee" story strikes a nerve


Context and presentation are key to news stories. When a news story isn't communicated in its full context, it can take on a different meaning or intent. That can even happen when a story airs in its entirety.

Tone, script writing, placement of sound bites, image selection and b-roll video are all very important parts of a news story. Reporters, photojournalists and producers with a ton of experience make the process look easy.

Yet, even when done right, technical issues during a live newscast may affect the outcome and response to a story. Trust me, it happens.

According to a number of Twitter posts, something was lost in translation and/or transmission with a top story on WDJT-TV CBS 58 Tuesday.

Reporter and anchor Bill Walsh presented a story on local rapper Pizzle, who in a new single released yesterday, shares his take on violence in Milwaukee. But only part of the story about the song, called "Kilwaukee," aired in the evening newscast. The song's lyrics address violence in the city and the more than 100 homicides in the past year.

On Twitter, Walsh apologized for the technical difficulties, saying that the station did not air the news package as he intended.

"We had technical difficulties … and the full story never aired," Walsh said on Twitter. He later reported that the full story would air in the morning, and that he'd send out a link.

The story that appears now on the station's website was, according to Walsh, the entire story. It re-aired this morning on TV.

The story questions if there is a controversy with the juxtaposition of the way city leaders and the rapper represent what Milwaukee reality is. The goal of the report – and I'm speculating here – was to let viewers decide:

  • Is the label of "Kilwaukee" appropriate for Milwaukee?
  • What is the motivation for a rap song like this?
  • What is the sentiment in the community?

However, the truncated report may have not allowed for Pizzle to share his entire view, or city leaders to be informed enough to comment on something that was released less than 24 hours ago.

Either way, it is unfortunate when errors occur. WDJT-TV CBS did what any station I know of would have done, and that is to get the entire report aired at its next available opportunity.

What remains is an interpretation of what the story was, and the community's response to both the reporting from the TV station and the lyrics of Pizzle's song. Ultimately, we would have been left with the same reflection if the original story would have aired as it was intended. We just wouldn't have had the lag time between the airings.

In May sweeps, TV stations promote news stories and present ones like this because it is asking for a response from the community. By tapping into violence and music – both topics that draw attention – the station is betting that this report will bring in more viewers for its newscast.

This incident provides a learning tool in the world of mass media. Errors happen, but what matters is that the best and most accurate story gets told. Here we also see a common-used tactic in commercial media. Stories like a rap song talking about violence in our community get noticed because everyone has opinions on both violence and music.

In the end, Pizzle's song will get heard. And if you listen to it, and his interpretation of it in the full interview that made it to TV, that may give you a better informed position when expressing your own thoughts on "Kilwaukee."


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