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July 13, 2010
(Page 6 of 21)

An important piece of the puzzle was missing

My latest rant/criticism is directed at the major media outlets in the Roanoke area.  It has to do with the coverage of Colin Goddard.  He is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shootings.  He was in Blacksburg this week showing his documentary called "Living for 32."

Part of the documentary shares his experiences of being shot four times and his road to recovery.  The documentary also follows his crusade for stricter gun laws.  Goddard used hidden cameras to show how easy it is to buy guns at a gun show without a background check.

Here's what was missing from all the coverage that I saw and read.  We failed to point out that the Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho didn't actually buy his gun at a gun show.  He bought it legally from a gun shop in Roanoke.  When I brought this up in our editorial meeting, one of my colleagues questioned whether we need to say that everytime we do a story about gun control and the Virginia Tech shootings.  He feels it sounds repetitive and thinks most people already know that Cho didnt buy a gun at the gun show.  I disagree.  Most of the students currently at Virginia Tech weren't there during the shootings and maybe unfamiliar with some of the details from that day.

The news media often receives criticism that we are a bunch of liberals who hate guns and want stricter gun control.  I am not sure that is true and quite frankly I don't think I could change your mind if you feel that way.  However, I can see why gun advocates/gun owners feel that we are unfair when we fail to mention that Cho didn't buy his gun at a gun show.  I am not saying the reporters who worked on this story are gun control advocates and purposely left it out.  I am just saying that piece of information needed to be in there and for that reason we made a mistake.


February 8

I sometimes read the comment section on our website.  It allows users to offer their "two cents" to a particular story.  I was reading the comments about Tony Anderson when one caught my eye.  First, in case you missed it, Tony Anderson is the high profile Roanoke attorney who was charged with driving under the influence.

The posting said this "wow, what baffles me is how quick this story was pulled off of the air. Most stories are run into the ground not this one. Makes me wonder who could have the pull to take it off of the air."  This was obviously written by someone who has watched too many X-Files episodes and believes they are being followed by black helicopters.  By the way, I rode in one of those black helicopters recently and it was a great experience.  

I checked our archives and we ran stories about Tony Anderson on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  I am not sure why this person would think this story was pulled off the air.  It was also on our website throughout the weekend.   I am surprised when people think someone has so much power or influence they can call up and have a story killed.  I am not saying it's never been done.  I am sure it has.  I am just saying it doesn't happen often and its never happened in my 12 year career.

Are people often upset with our coverage?  Yes.  Do they call and complain?  Yes.  But we don't take a story off the air just because they don't like what's being reported.  Case in point?  Recently, News 7 reported on the problems involving Salem Doctor Greg Alouf.  He is a major advertiser with WDBJ-TV.  But that didn't stop us from reporting it.  I am not aware of him calling and complaining but I am sure he would have preferred News 7 stay away from this story.

I will concede one point to the viewer's criticism.  We didn't devote a lot of time to the Tony Anderson story.  The reason is simple.  It happened over the weekend and sometimes it is hard to get in touch with the appropriate people on the weekend like the police officer who worked this case.  There wasn't a lot of information to report until Monday.  It stinks but that is how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

I hope this give you insight about how stories are covered.  There is no conspiracy.  Time for me to go.  The black helicopters are coming to pick me up.

January 24

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