[Above: NBC's Kerry Sanders reporting on a Florida alligator hunt]
The following is a news commentary
When someone goes after a reporter these days, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s behind it. The strange attack of NBC’s recent, fascinating report on alligators in Florida falls into that category.
The NBC reporter, Kerry Sanders, has covered alligator-related news for many years in Florida. Sanders and I--like many Floridians--have seen thousands of gators, gotten to know trappers, gone along on midnight alligator hunts, watched gators get pulled out of backyard pools and golf course hazards, and reported on alligator attacks of animals and people. I can’t think of a journalist more qualified than Sanders to report on alligators in the aftermath of the tragic attack at Disney.
But then came a bizarre Internet blog criticizing Sanders’ report. The “headline” of the critique was misleading: “Clueless NBC Reporter Mistakes Frog for Alligator.” In fact, the author of the blog post, “Senior News Analyst” Kyle Drennan, had wildly misrepresented a portion of the report in which Sanders asked a gator trapper if a sound they heard was made by an alligator; the trapper answered it was a bullfrog.
Drennan obviously hasn’t the background or expertise to know this, but it's not unusual to mistake the sound of a bullfrog for that of an alligator since they make similar sounds. If Drennan had paid attention to Sanders' report, he would have heard recorded alligator sounds which--yep--sound a lot like bullfrogs. And that’s the weird part: A blogger who seems to know nothing of the subject, plays the role of critic of a reporter who’s actually something of an expert on the subject. But to step back for a moment, it seems bizarre that Drennan took time and effort to try to controversialize a small moment in a non-controversial report.
Drennan went on to refer to Sanders as “melodramatic” and “overeager,” and then concluded, “this is not the first time a report from Sanders has been marred by his own overeagerness.”
The thing is, Sanders’ report had no melodrama. Only someone who has no idea what alligators in Florida are like, would characterize perfectly factual reporting as “melodrama.”
There's plenty of legitimate fodder to criticize the news media over. That makes it all the more mystifying as to why a self-appointed media critic would go to such lengths to find fault with a story that had nothing wrong with it.
Watch the NBC video and see what you think. It's a fascinating story. You'll see Florida trappers catch a 13-foot long big boy. Pretty amazing... and dangerous. Like Sanders reported, for safety's sake, it's best (and quite realistic) to act as if there's a gator in just about every fresh body of water in Florida.
Maybe you can figure out why Drennan targeted Sanders with such weak ammunition. I can’t.