Allegiant Air Landing Botch: Big Story or Little Story?

Few stories illustrate the different gauges broadcast media and newspapers use to determine newsworthiness than the one involving a May 4 Allegiant Air flight from Las Vegas to Fort Collins. During the landing at the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, the plane overshot the runway by approximately ten feet, but none of the 145 passengers or five crew members were injured. Nevertheless, most of the Denver-area TV stations either led their newscasts with the tale or placed it near the top of the roster. In contrast, the two local dailies more or less shrugged it off.

Why the different approaches?

The biggest factors involve the disparate demands of the mediums. TV is always looking for big, grabby visuals, instantly relatable storylines and lots of people available for blabbing, and the Allegiant Air tale offered all three qualities. The plane certainly filled the screen and the many passengers agreeable to talking shared the sort of experiences that any air traveler, white-knuckled or not, could understand.

In the end, of course, nothing much happened, which explains why both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post merely briefed the story, placing the snippets in far-from-prominent spots in their physical editions; click here and here to read their offerings. But such factors were apparently outweighed by the incident's other attributes in the minds of television news directors. Channels 2 and 7 devoted significant early screen time to the Allegiant tale, and Channel 31 pushed the report ahead of updates about seemingly every murder that's taken place in the state over the past several years -- although there's no denying that co-anchor Leland Vittert's hair looked fabulous throughout.

One more thing: Colorado Public Radio made the Allegiant story a sizable part of its news update segment at 6 a.m. on May 5. This may have seemed like an unusual choice at first blush, given the network's alleged erudition, but it made more sense when the next story turned out to be a report about an Adams County official on administrative leave that had been broken the previous evening by Channel 7, which CPR credited as the source. The radio net has been going on and on about beefing up its local news coverage -- but judging by the May 5 broadcast, the main change may involve making someone watch the TV news the night before.

Wonder who drew the short straw? -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts