Sometimes what separates the good newsrooms from the average ones is how a story strikes you and what you do about it. When the combined effects of fog and heavy smoke covered I 75 in Central Florida, it triggered several chain reaction accidents that killed at least 11 people. Most were incinerated as cars, trucks and buses piggy-backed and exploded. The State Police had originally closed the interstate after a Dept. of Forestry warning then reopened it. Television News, as ABC News did in this dramatization, can play a significant role in raising questions how to handle highways when weather conditions change. What led the State Police to reopen I 75, who had oversight, who checked with the Weather Service, and who was monitoring conditions on the ground?
Just watching the "one piece" stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair suggested a lot was wrong with its construction. But so many other symptoms for disaster were present, the accident demanded a thorough investigation.
The debt ceiling and the Obama budget battle are not the only places viewers and users want accountability right now. They seem to be supporting newscasts and programs which check on systems that are supposed to protect them. 15 million people watched the broadcast version and many more online for days after. The ABC News Special that examined the whole Jaycee Dugard kidnapping case was so much more than the victim's first person account of the 18 year ordeal. Diane Sawyer put Jaycee's story together. But it was Chris Cuomo's Investigation into accountability of the CA systems on not pursuing leads to solve her crime that had real impact. Chris documented years of federal and state agencies not being aggressive. There may not be a more sensational kidnapping case where the perp fathered two daughters by the victim.
Anchors like ABC's David Muir use their version of the Magic Wall and other tools to break down today's complex subjects in an understandable way. Quick graphic treatments done in this explanatory style have lots of viewer value as Muir and their Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser, show ways to avoid spreading the Super Bug in hospitals.
Coverage in the DC market for the Metro Train Accident centered around casualty count and references to the next NTSB briefing. Anchors supplied little history or background so the viewer would know there was a litany of NTSB recommendations from past incidents. Maybe there are less Reporters with experience covering these past events, but TV stations can define themselves in today's web news environment by building out stories with more investigative/accountability approach right away.