Extra credit: Nightline segment “The color line and the bus line”

In 1995,  Nightline went to Buffalo, New York, to report on the controversy that stirred over the death of Cynthia Wiggins, who was a victim of a tragic road accident. Her death sparked an outcry from the black community who believed that she was a victim of racism due to the circumstances that led to her having to dodge traffic and getting crushed under truck. To the white residents of Buffalo however, it was simply a traffic accident and not a case of racism.

I generally thought that the Nightline segment was good and revealed several important dimensions on covering race and reporting on multicultural societies. However, I found myself a bit confused at the beginning when the segment immediately opened with emotional and opinionated responses from interviewees about the incident. Although the segment intended to explore and report on the racial aspect of the incident, I felt that details of the accident should have been clearly presented from the beginning so the viewers understood the objective facts of the story that laid at the center of the debate before they could form any conclusions.

The inclusion of various voices and perspectives in the segment is one of the better ways to report on a newsworthy incident of racial relevance. Nightline did a good job of getting many sources to respond to what happened. However, I think interviewing people at a nightclub/bar wasn’t the best decision. I think that people should be given a better chance at coming up with thoughtful yet honest responses, which such an environment would not allow.

It was interesting to know that Ted Koppel, Nightline’s anchor did not necessarily understand the significance of the story at first and Eric Wray, the African-American editor and producer of Nightline that initiated the story senses its importance right away. This brings up relevant questions to reporting on diverse societies such as the relation between the race of the journalist and that of his/her subject.


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