Covering the News from 9,000 Miles Away

At the beginning of the week, the news of the death of Steve Irwin shocked the world. The week would end in the same way with Peter Brock, another famous Aussie losing his life on Friday in the TargaWest, outside of Perth, hitting a tree after going through a hairpin turn in the second stage of the all-tarmac event.

While Irwin first made his name known here in the US with his Crocodile Hunter programs on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, which led to him becoming somewhat popular “back home”. However, there were many people who did not like him as he seemed to be a mockery of the stereotypical Australian, with his very noticeable “broad” accent, and his trademark line “Crikey!” Others were critical of the way he treated the Alligators and other wild animals with seemingly reckless abandon for his own safety. I was watching an episode of “Crocodile Hunter Diaries” a couple of months ago, and one thing that he had said during the filming of him doing a demonstration at his Australia Zoo was that the reason he would treat the animals in the way that he did was that so they could keep their natural instincts.

Brocky, on the other hand, was a man who was only really well-known within Australia and New Zealand. The easiest way to prove this is by taking a look at major sports and news websites. Of course, things have changed throughout the day, so the situation overnight may have been different.

We start with ESPN. The major story right now is the matchup tomorrow between the #1 and #2 teams (by a vote of coaches, not necessarily by any objective means) in College Football. To find the story about Brock, you have to go to the Other Series section of the “NASCAR+” area of their site.

Next up is Fox Sports. They’re not especially well-known for their sports news operation, but they do a respectable job of reporting the stories. The Brock story is buried under the all headlines portion of the Motorsports section (again, like ESPN, marked as NASCAR – as if to say there is nothing else).

In fact, of the non-Antipodean sports news sites I canvassed, the only one that had the story on the front page was Sports Illustrated. Honourable mention goes to MSNBC, who have the story available from their front page, but you have to drill through two levels of menus to find it.

However, there is one site that should be mentioned for their total ignorance of the story. Speed Channel, a channel dedicated to motor racing, doesn’t have the story listed at all on their news page. You’d think that a site who has a story about a karting event in Rock Island, IL (written by “News Wire”) would at least mention Brock – especially when you add in the fact that in the past few years they’ve shown the V8 Supercar series (most rounds except Adelaide, Sandown and Bathurst I believe, though I seem to remember seeing some footage of the Clipsal 500 a few years back). I would predict that there might be a mention of it on Sunday during their news program or during the Wind Tunnel talkback program.

Obviously, the take of the news sites in Oz is one of full coverage. Just about every major newspaper has the story on the front page of the Saturday editions. Also, the Sydney Morning Herald sent out a “Breaking News” email about it (interestingly enough, it was The Age that sent out the “Flash Update” about Irwin). Also, the news.com.au network has full coverage, including video from Sky News. Bizarrely, Network Ten’s motorsport page RPM doesn’t have the story on that page, but both Nine and Seven have it as the main feature on their respective co-branded sites.

One final note about the media coverage of the Irwin death, all three commercial networks had footage air here in the States. Seven’s footage mainly aired on NBC. A report from Nine was featured on CBS – it was in widescreen, and instead of cropping the picture to make it look decent or showing it with letterboxing, CBS decided to air it in the “stretched” mode. The only work from Ten that I saw was on CNN, who spoke to their News Director in Brisbane in the first hours of the story.

Update: During the coverage of Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, Bob Varsha did mention what had happened. Bob is one of the most knowledgeable racing commentators in this country; kudos to him (now, if we could send the whole crew to more races other than just Indy). Also, the BBC’s story has appeared in its RSS feed, which is included in Firefox by default.