Friday, November 13, 2009

A refreshing change: TV tackles real trucking issues

All too often, it’s the fiery crash that grabs up media headlines and leaves audiences with an irrational fear or dislike for heavy trucks that share their roadways.

While crashes and fatalities do occur and are tragic, the viewer rarely gets to hear stories about other trucking issues or from the men and women behind the wheel.

Every so often, someone gets it right. Recently, that someone was Dan Rather, who dedicated two recent episodes of “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet to trucking issues with an emphasis on driver training. Even though he did cover safety and crashes in his reports, he also asked truckers about training, experience and other topics such as the economy, driver pay and competition.

The latest was Episode 436, titled “Truck talk,” which aired Tuesday, Nov. 10. It was based on a trucking roundtable discussion that featured OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer and OOIDA Life Member Miles Verhoef.

Rather’s team invited the panelists to Willie’s Place Theater at Carl’s Corner, TX, to break new ground in addition to revisiting topics covered in a previous show (Episode 433, “Queen of the Road”) featuring OOIDA Member Desiree Wood.

Rather demonstrated his reporting experience by researching the issues and asking tough but fair questions of the panelists. Many of the subjects were ones that OOIDA and its trucking constituency have long been concerned with.

It was refreshing to see an established newsman like Rather asking the right questions and allowing the panelists time to answer without a lot of editing.

Spencer is no stranger to TV cameras, having appeared on CNN, Fox, C-SPAN and other networks through the years. Time constraints on many news or talk shows leave little time for much more than a sound bite or a brief discussion of a single issue. Not so with the Rather report.

So what made this latest report so darned good?

For one thing, the topics did not magically appear out of thin air, thanks to OOIDA Media Spokesperson Norita Taylor who fielded numerous calls from Rather’s producers during the months leading up to the taping. The time Rather and his staff put into the research paid off.

While we at Land Line Magazine and Land Line Now report on many of these topics extensively, it was quite refreshing to see Rather bring the dialogue into America’s living room.

He is not going to stop there. Rather said he will continue to pursue trucking stories for future episodes of his news program. On behalf of all highway users, let’s hope for a big audience.