Watching the tsunami of sensational news reporting lately reminded me of a great revelation in my own soporific broadcasting career.
It was 1966 or 67 when I first learned about the Fear Filter. Or course, it wasn’t called that; it was a lesson, of sorts, in reporting news. As a radio dj “in the business” for a couple years and thoroughly untrained in the ways of Journalism, my lessons in reporting all came from classes at Monkey-See U. Back then, by watching my station’s News Director, Jim Erwin, the news was Who, What, When, Where, To What Degree and occasionally Why. Since Jim was the News Dept., he and the AP machine were the first and last words in our news content. Of course, the rest of the air staff helped out, phoning in “news tips” if/when we happened upon them (mostly traffic accidents).
Then the Civil Rights movement came to town with its marches, demonstrations and speeches. Through a series of boring events, I got tapped to cover the most inflammatory ones for the network; we were a Mutual News affiliate. This was great! I got the coveted “national exposure” and – more importantly to starving LSU student - $50 per feed! Against this background is when I learned about the Fear Filter, how basic, how important as well as how remunerative it was. It remains so today except, over the last 50 years, it has been on steroids.