Friday, April 15, 2005

Extreme radio makeover

Around the world, journalists are confronted with difficult decisions every day: Should I, at the request of the courts, reveal my confidential sources? Should I put the camera down and rush to the aid of someone in a war zone? Should I go into a war zone in the first place? Does my bias show in the stories I cover?

Here in the radio world that is Flagstaff, Arizona, we're grappling with a similarly weighty issue: Do we cover (and if so, how) the cast of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" as it builds a new house in town?

Seriously, the show -- which is sort of a pseudo-"Queen for a Day", building new homes for people who have had unfortunate events in their lives -- is in Flagstaff this week. The crew is building a house for the parents of Lori Piestewa, a Hopi woman who died early in the fighting in Iraq - and was the first Native American woman ever to die in combat as a member of the US armed forces. To make things more interesting, the project was nominated by the infamous Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was captured during the same mission that saw Piestewa killed.

On its surface, that's the whole story -- Jessica Lynch and ABC do a good deed and build a house for a family whose daughter made the ultimate sacrifice. Forty-five seconds of news, maybe a minute's worth. It's the kind of act the people at Habitat for Humanity do every day, without putting the process on national TV. And it's not as though ABC -- and all the homebuilding suppliers involved in "Extreme Makeover" are doing this entirely out of the goodness of their hearts -- Unless something's changed, ABC still gets a little something called 'ad revenue' and a little something else called 'ratings' out of the deal. And companies such as Shea Homes get something we in the media world like to call 'publicity'.

Still, it's hard to ignore the fact that more than 15-hundred people are in town to build this house, and that the building site has become a Ground Zero-like, quasi-tourist attraction.

This, naturally, raises the question: Are the gawkers out there to steal a glimpse of homebuilder heartthrob Ty Pennington, or out of some level of sympathy and support for the Piestewas, who have been thrown into the national spotlight again without asking for it?

It's a question that will hopefully be the thrust of our story, even as our reporter hopes to steal a glimpse (or, more likely, an interview) with Ty Pennington.

The real question is: When are they going to film an episode of "The Simpsons" in Flagstaff?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mitch, saw your dad at the R&D Forum this week and he referred me to your blog. I read them all and got a lot of chuckles as I read each of them. I will check in ever now and then. I came thru Flag in early Feb on the way to hike GC, which some male buddies and I do as a bonding thing. I called you but the staff said you were out so I did not leave a message. I still remember the day we met at Smithsonian as we won the photo contest. Me the Senior Div and you the Junior. I still do a lot of B&W photography and enjoy it much. Keep up the good work at NPR.
Bill Woolam (Alexandia VA)