Carmageddon? What Carmageddon?
A stretch of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles was closed for about 36 hours a few weekends ago to allow crews to demolish half of an overpass. The four lane Mulholland Drive bridge was reduced to just two lanes–one in each direction–and the area where the old eastbound lanes ran is now gone.
For months leading up to the closure, warnings were given about “epic” traffic chaos. Residents were asked to do anything but drive and I think the population of L.A. dropped significantly that weekend as people escaped.
The media was set to pounce on the story. Talk show schedules were adjusted, news reporters were waiting for the worst, and airborne traffic reporters were up flying on a day they would normally be on the ground enjoying the California sun.
But–as predicted here–Carmageddon never morphed into the monster it could have been. People stayed home, changing their plans to keep the car in the driveway. Or they left town early for a short weekend getaway.
The end result: traffic was non-existant in Los Angeles.
Carmageddon was a bust.
But remember, only half of the bridge was demolished. The other half is slated to be taken down in the middle of 2012. By that time, the half that was removed last month will be rebuilt–moving the abutments apart to allow for carpool lanes on the freeway below–and Mulholland Drive traffic can shift to the newly constructed part.
That means there will be another closure of the 405 next year.
But will the media coverage be as intense then as it was a few weeks ago? Carmageddon didn’t live up to expectations, so will radio and TV stations invest in live coverage like they did the first time around?
They have to, I say. The reason is quite simple: that’s when it will matter.
It’s quite possible that, after seeing the non-event Carmageddon was the first time around, people won’t stay home next year when it happens again. And if next year’s 405 closure turns into a monster story, news directors and station owners will still want it covered as it develops. I mean, would you want to be the station left out in the cold on a big story?
Can broadcasters take lessons from this year’s Carmageddon and use them while planning for next year’s? Absolutely. But the underlying thinking won’t change: the story will still need to be covered.
You see, covering the big news story matters… even when it turns out to be not so big after all.
Image courtesy of Alissa Walker.
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