Our viewers are very vocal. We encourage your feedback. You will be happy to know we read every e-mail that is sent to us. I want to share with you a few recent concerns and complaints and then my thoughts. Hopefully, it will clear up some confusion or give you a better idea why we do the things we do.
1. This woman wrote to us complaining about a commercial. Here it is: "I have watched your news for years, but now, every time the news is on there is an ignorant commercial blaming the president for the price of gas (when it is a world market and lack of regulation on speculators that causes prices) I change the channel. I refuse to watch a program that offends me with political lies and nonsense."
Here is my response. The news department has no say or influence on what commercials are shown during our newscasts. That is handled by our sales department. They are two separate departments. The sales folks are located on the other side of our building. We don't have much interaction with each other. It's not that we don't like the sales people. We limit our interaction because we don't want either department trying to influence the other. The bottom line is no one at News 7 had a say on whether this particular commercial airs in our newscasts. It helps keep us impartial. I'm sorry she feels the need to switch the channel. That is her right of course but something tells me this commercial is probably airing on the other stations too.
This is also a good time to remind people we rarely limit political advertising. The management here at WDBJ 7 doesn't take sides. For example, let's assume the General Manager of WDBJ is a Republican. He wouldn't decide to air more pro-Republican ads just because he is a Republican. The same goes if he were a Democrat. In my twelve years at WDBJ, I can only recall a few instances when management refused to air a political ad. In those cases, the ad was too graphic or completely untrue.
2. This woman wrote to us complaining we show too much file video from the mass shootings at Virginia Tech. Here is what she wrote: "I know it is your job to report the news, but when reporting or updating the viewers on any story relating to the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Tech (i.e., the lawsuits of two families suing the Commonwealth of Virginia), does WDBJ7 always have to show video footage of the police cars racing towards Norris Hall with the officers getting out of their cars? That same clip has been shown almost every time your station has a story related to it. I am only one of several staff/faculty members of Virginia Tech who live in the viewing area and was intimately involved on that horrendous day. Seeing the footage is a constant reminder of what we went through and it is certainly a reminder that we do not need."
Here is my response. She's right. We show the video too often. We sometimes forget that day was so dramatic for so many people and showing that video over and over just brings up too many bad memories. I'm not saying we should never air the video again but I think we can do a better job of showing it only when it's appropriate. I'm glad she brought this to our attention.
3. This guy wrote to us after the verdict in the Virginia Tech civil trial. You may remember the jury ruled in favor of the two families who sued the university over the April 16, 2007 shootings. Here is what he wrote: "It was so nice to see that the jury ruled for the familys in this case and did not let the local medias onair bias for Virginia Tech have any impact on there decision.There is still some true justice left in the world after all.Virginia Tech and The Commonwealth deserved this ruling if not more."
Here is my response. I don't know where to begin. This guy obviously has watched too many X-Files episodes. Virginia Tech doesn't dictate if and what the news media covers regarding the university. I am sure there are stories Virginia Tech doesn't want us to cover but that doesn't stop us. Just for the record, no one at Tech has ever said to me "Justin, you can't cover a particular story." This viewer also accused us of being biased towards Virginia Tech. I've never heard anyone in our news department say let's cover something a certain way because we favor Virginia Tech. We've done plenty of positive and negative stories about Virginia Tech. That is balanced coverage.
Those are my responses. If you have complaints or concerns in the future, please let me know. I'm always willing to listen but keep in mind I won't always agree with you.