As the mega millions jackpot soared beyond $600 million, newscasts were catching lottery fever. But one station suffered a black eye for its handling of the story. You know, those typical reports where people are asked what they would do with all that money.
We were saturated with them yesterday, but WPIX took a different tack. Reporter Arthur Chi’en delved inside the numbers, showing how rare it was to win the huge payoff. Chi’en got the expertise of a mathematical professor. Formulaic equations indicated shelling out $175 million for lottery tickets would be enough to take home the big prize.
Another common angle is to show the odds of winning the lottery as compared to other events. Chi’en threw that into his piece last night as well. The veteran Channel 11 reporter pointed out that you were “50 percent more likely to be struck by lightning.”
But Chi’en took it to another, more inappropriate level, saying you were “8,000 times more likely to be murdered.”
While his story continued, the red flag was in place. What makes it wrong? Let’s see, this is a “feel good” piece that was brought to a screeching halt. As a serious newsman, referring to murders in that context is a bad move.
There is nothing whimsical about including odds that your viewers will be murdered–ever.
It may have been a throwaway line by Chi’en, but it should be enough to throw him off the station indefinitely.
But the black eye doesn’t stop at Chi’en odd judgment. Anyone who approved that story prior to air should be held accountable. Anyone who worked on the story with Chi’en and caught that line, hopefully gave some input to the reporter, questioning its inclusion.
While we realize that PIX is trying to be a viable news option at 10 p.m. opposite WNYW, the risk of upsetting the audience is not the card to play.
When the report concluded, anchor Tamsen Fadal said, “Depressing, right?” Close, but we would opt for “Disgusting, right?”