Facebook is perhaps a better communicator of news than the media, especially the media in my current city of Memphis. The first time I heard about 12-year old Diedra Shores, a local teen, was through Facebook via a post by one of my friends. At the time, Diedra was picked as one of the finalists for the Today Show’s Kid Reporter, a nation-wide contest. Well, this morning, the energetic Ms. Shores won the contest and will be embarking upon her first news story very soon aboard a cruise ship. How did I find out about it? Yep, through Facebook.
But this is not about Facebook so much as it is about how Diedra Shores has singlehandedly upstaged the Memphis media. For many of you who may be reading this from other cities, let me give you an idea of how news stories run in the Bluff City.
Here’s a few examples of the headlines:
“Two men charged with armed robbery at local convenience store.”
“Three teens sought as suspects in death of local teen.”
“Woman killed during carjacking at traffic light.”
“Toddler left for dead in North Memphis apartment building.”
Get the picture? After I learned of Diedra’s soaring accomplishment, I did a quick search of local media websites:
9:15am: Scanned the website of the Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ joke of a newspaper. Nothing on Diedra.
9:30am: Scanned the website of WREG, the local CBS affiliate; scrolled down to mid-way of the homepage and found one little link under the NBC Memphis heading.
9:35am: Scanned the website for WLMT/WPTY, the local ABC affiliate. Zilch on Diedra
9:40am: Scanned the website for WHBQ, the local Fox affiliate. Nada on Diedra. Not surprised at all by that one.
9:43am: Scanned the website for WMC, the local NBC affiliate. Surely, the local NBC affiliate is going to have something right? After all, The Today Show is on the NBC network. Ok, there is something…but I had to scroll down and go past all of the bad news to see the video link on Diedra.
Thanks to the local media, a large swath of Memphians (and quite a few outsiders) believe that this city is one big cesspool of violence and poverty; even teens like Diedra are not immune to becoming the top story on one of these news programs. Guaranteed, if there was an incident that involved a teen doing something as small as raising their voice in the school cafeteria, it would be carried by all of the media affiliates in the city. Furthermore, it could be presented as a story where the teen was being unruly towards another student or the teacher, when in actuality, the child could have been simply trying to get the attention of a friend. There have been instances where the Memphis media did not accurately check sources or facts regarding several new stories. In addition, their rate of following up on news stories and doing in-depth reporting is atrocious.
Meanwhile, Diedra Shores becomes a winner of a national contest and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears of the so-called media personnel in the city. She didn’t win a ribbon in a local pie eating contest; she won a national contest as a Kid Reporter—that alone should have caused them to take notice and try to capitalize from it. In an industry that’s struggling for ratings and eyeballs, they need all of the help they can get. Furthermore, if there is ever a city in need of a better image, it’s Memphis. Stories like this could be used as a part of an image building platform to improve the opinion of the city among its citizens first…then to the rest of the nation.
There’s so many angles that a good reporter could work with this story. For instance, one could interview administrators at Memphis City Schools to get their reactions to Diedra’s accomplishment and how that could be leveraged into encouraging other students to strive for higher goals. After all, Diedra’s school, Colonial Middle, is part of the public school system. A good reporter could also seek out other students within the public school system who are achieving in spite of the system’s failing report card. Through a well-researched report, a local news station could incorporate Diedra’s story and even allow her to be apart of the story as a co-reporter. That would be a great publicity boost for Memphis City Schools. Those are just a few ideas that I’m tossing out there, in hopes that it would stir the creative juices of someone at one of these local news stations…or just somebody who cares enough.
Lastly, I find it quite interesting that Diedra wants a career in an industry that has a tendency to demonize people who look like her. However, I can only pray that she will become the change agent as she is already on the path of being a trailblazer. After all, it only takes one.