Archive for April, 2010

We’re sorry.

April 28, 2010

The following is an apology I posted on our station’s web site today.

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Writing apologizes is one of the hardest notes to write. But clearly in this case we owe you, our viewers of CBS Atlanta and users of CBSAtlanta.com, an apology.Last night we aired a story about a local man charged with murdering another man in Connecticut. Connecticut authorities arrested 44-year-old Lishan Wang on Monday. Wang is from Cobb County and is accused of shooting and killing a Yale University doctor.Since this was also a local story, we went to Wang’s Cobb County home to see if we could learn what lead up to the alleged shooting. When we got there, a woman opened the door and we explained the story we were working on. It turns out the woman who opened the door was Wang’s wife. She didn’t know her husband had been arrested and charged with a crime. No one had told her that her husband was in jail in Connecticut on murder charges. We broke the news to her. It’s not something we want to do.Wang’s wife then invited us into her home, but it’s what happened next that that I found the most offensive and horrifying. While we were in the home talking with her and shooting video, Wang’s wife fell to the floor hysterically crying. If you saw our newscast last night or our website earlier today, you saw this horrible video.There was no reason for us to air or put that video on the Web. No one needed to see those moments in her life. I received several emails and calls complaining about what we did.To those of you who wrote or called, thank you. We understand your anger and frustration with what we did. You’re right. This is not the way we set out to conduct ourselves every day. We appreciate your reaction and want you to know we knew the minute this story went on the air that we had made a terrible mistake in judgment.It was wrong. We were wrong and I apologize. We have discussed it internally and will continue to do so. We will also use this video in future training sessions with our staff to show what we should NOT put on television.I can offer no excuse but only hope you will accept our apologies.

Steve Schwaid
Director of News and Digital Content
Steve.Schwaid@cbsatlanta.com

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Should we have reported the story?

April 23, 2010

So here’s the scenario. We get a tip – most likely from PETA – that the state is raiding a building/business that houses animals that are for sale. It’s a legit business that supplies to pet stores and others. The inspectors come out and basically say nothing is wrong. They say the business is treating the animal better than they maybe treating in many homes. They cited the business for one violation – some rusty cages.

We had the video and sound but opted not to run the story. It really didn’t sound news worthy and didn’t make the cut for our producers. I agreed with their call. It didn’t look like a story.

At noon we saw one station lead with the story. We discussed it in the newsroom and it still didn’t feel like a story. They had the same stuff we had. We decided again it wasn’t a story.

Later a PETA person called one of our reporters to make sure we knew of the story. We asked PETA if they had any video of their alleged violations in the business. They said yes and sent us the link.

We figured ok, maybe we have a story and we looked at the video. It showed some animals – mice -being tossed into shipping boxes. There are other animals being packed up for shipment and comments from workers via undercover cameras about how the animals are treated. Hmmm, maybe we have a story.

But then near the end a graphic pops up saying where the video was taken. It says it was taken at a chain pet store. According to what we saw it was not taken at the business that was raised and cleared of animal abuse.

We stood by our decision that it wasn’t a story.

Then at 5 and 6 pm we see all of the stations run the story.

I still think we made the right call. The business was cleared, the video was misleading and we felt there wasn’t a story.

Were we wrong? What did they see in the story we didn’t or were they just filling time?

Back in class

April 7, 2010

First, I apologize for my tardiness in updating my blog.

I have an excuse. (I give my reporters grief if they don’t keep their blogs fresh.) I hope I have a good excuse.

I’m teaching a class at the Savannah School of Art and Design. It’s a television production course where we focus on writing, shooting, editing, blocking etc.

It’s a blast. It’s a lot of fun but it’s work. We meet twice a week for 2.5 hours in the evening – five hours a week. That’s a lot f class time and it’s a lot of content to teach, review and discuss.

What’s the hardest part? Probably making sure your mind is totally open as you talk about how to produce content for so many different platforms – platforms we haven’t even thought of yet. My background is television. It’s my reference point. When I’m uncomfortable I might resort to how would “we do it” in TV. But no longer. That’s also what makes the class so invigorating.

I really enjoy the teaching. It’s a way to step back from our daily newsroom pressures and talk about how, why and what we do. We expose ourselves to the question of why we do it the way we do. The worst answer is we always “do it that way.”

I really enjoy the students. Their minds are open, clean and clear. They can be so expansive in their assignment ideas.

Example: This week’s assignment is to produce a testimonial about anyone, thing or product. They have to do interviews, location shoots and can add sound, music and graphics.

One student is doing a testimonial about tin cans. Yup, tin cans.

Another about the iPhone.

The third is about yoga and the fourth about a clothing brand.

All so different. No one is thinking strictly in the box.

We’re good as an industry about bringing in consultants, researchers and analysts to look at what we do, how we do it and why.

Wondering if maybe I should bring these students in for a day with my producers and managers and just spend hours listening to what they think we should be doing, what we should look like and what we need to do as we figure out the future.

Maybe next time I’ll post their assignments.