Justin McLeod's Blog

Ok, you can stop laughing now!


August 11, 2010

Random Rants

If you blinked you probably missed it but Tuesday night on the CBS Evening News they mentioned the government now feels most of the recent problems with Toyota's cars were actually driver error.  Black boxes reveal in a lot of the cases the driver's foot wasn't even on the pedal when accidents happened.  WHOA.  That is big news but the story was only twenty seconds and was towards the end of the newscast.  Wasn't this the lead on many newscasts months ago when the problems came to light?  Out of fairness, shouldn't it be higher up in the newscast?  Or the front page of the newspaper? 

I hate editorials.  I rarely read them.  I don't need someone to shape my opinion about someone or something.  I think newspapers should stop doing them.  Here's why.  I don't think the average reader realizes the news department and the editorial department are separate.  The editorial department doesn't walk down the hall and tell the news department how to cover a story.  Just like here at News 7, the sales department doesn't tell us what to cover and how to do it.  By having editorials, I think newspapers often get their reputation for either being liberal or conservative.  I just don't feel there is any use for editorials anymore.

This next rant deals with silliness.  I watch a lot of cable news.  I watch all of them.  FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN.  It is clear FOX and MSNBC are two different news organizations and they clearly don't like each other.  How do I know this?  Personalities on both networks tell us almost every night what the other is doing.  They often call each other names.  It's gotten so frequent and so mean spirited I say enough is enough.  It's petty and I think it is very childish.  This goes for both MSNBC and FOX. 

I want to end on something positive.  I want to give News 7 a pat on the back for not giving ourselves a pat on the back.  Last weekend, it appears News 7 was the only tv station to have video from the car crash on Route 460 that killed a Liberty University professor and her son.  In our editorial meeting, we debated do we say that on the air, "News 7 was the only one there" or do we call it an exclusive.  In the end, we decided because two people died this wasn't the time to do that.  I am glad News 7 went this route and it is one reason I like working here.  We are not going to do something just because the tempetation is there or because we know our competitors would have done it if they were in this situation. 


August 4, 2010

Common Courtesy/Conspiracy Theories

I've been wanting to write this for awhile but I've been reluctant.  I don't want to come off as holier than thou or a hypocrite but two recent incidents forced me to complain.  I've been amazed how rude and angry people have been lately.  Let me give you a few examples.

I was recently at the City Market Building in downtown Roanoke.  This guy came up to me and ranted how no one in Roanoke knows that Lee Plaza is dedicated to our veterans.  He feels that is the news media's fault.  He then said over and over again WDBJ had an obligation to put it on the news every night and the network news.  I heard him out but he became so persistent that I had to walk away.  Less than five minutes later, he came up to me again and started all over again.  This gentleman, who is a World War II vet, may have a point.  We should honor our vets but he was so rude I couldn't take him seriously. 

This week this woman called to say FOX News wasn't coming in clearly on her TV.  She thinks it is a conspiracy, that someone doesn't want her to watch Glenn Beck.  I explained to her that she needed to call her cable company because it was probably a problem on its end.  She yelled "you are obviously a liberal" and slammed the phone down.  Btw, several stations including CNBC weren't coming in well so it wasn't just FOX News.

I also recently got an e-mail from a guy questioning why we ran a particular story.  He said he was "suspicious" and wondered if someone told us to cover this story.  I hear this every once in awhile.  People think a politician or a government official order us to cover or not cover a certain story.  In my twelve years in the news business, this has never happened.  It wouldn't matter if they did. We don't allow politicians or a government official tell us what to cover.

I am writing this hoping to convince you not everything we do in the News 7 newsroom is based on an X Files episode.  I also realize when many of you call or e-mail us you are angry but there's no need to swear, yell, or hang up the phone.  If someone called you up and started screaming what would you want to do?  You would probably hang up the phone yourself.  There's a saying "kill them with kindness."  I also remember my parents often saying when I was a kid "do unto yourself what you would do unto others."  It still rings true today even for me.

July 29, 2010

Inappropriate Video?

You can't help but feel sorry for the families of the two firefighters who died in a car accident in Rocky Mount.  Your heart also goes out to the Rocky Mount Fire Department.  While News 7 has received a lot of praise for our coverage, we have received a few complaints.

Several e-mailed us upset that we ran video of the accident site where you can see a white sheet covering part of the fire truck.  They felt it was inappropriate and insensitive.  The sheets are usually put up to block our cameras and the public's view of the victim's bodies.  We traditionally do not show dead bodies or blood on the news.  For some reason, people think we do.  We are not CSI or Law & Order.  We as reporters do not have any desire to see a dead body in person, and we have no desire to show it on tv. 

Sometimes we show a body if it's in a body bag.  In that case, the body is covered.  There is no set policy however.  We take it on a case by case basis.  We typically have lengthy conversations and debates in our editorial meetings on what video to show and what not to show. For example, just the other day we debated how much we should air of Jack Roush.  He is the NASCAR driver injured in a plane crash.  The video clearly showed his face covered in blood.  We aired it on News 7 at 11.  At noon, we edited the video and only broadcasted a small portion of it.  The reason?  You have two different audiences and at noon there's a good chance small children could be watching.

Back to the Rocky Mount crash video, News 7's news director reviewed our video after receiving several complaints.  She determined what we showed was appropriate.  I agree with her.  We didn't show any body parts or blood, just a white sheet.  With that being said, I don't know if showing a white sheet added to our coverage at all but I don't think it was inappropriate.  People are certainly upset right now and are grieving.  We understand that but I don't think in this case the news media was being insensitive.

July 23, 2010

Dirty Politics?

  Two Roanoke City Council Members have recently made headlines.  A state audit found Sherman Lea used his state issued vehicle for city business.  David Trinkle hasn't been paying his meal taxes on time for the two restaurants he owns.  Both stories got a lot of play on TV and in the newspaper.  What you may not know is how we found out about these stories.

In both cases, they were anonymous letters sent to News 7 and I assume to other news organizations.  I am always suspicious of anonymous letters.  Obviously, you don't know who they are and more importantly what their motive is.  Do they dislike Trinkle and Lea?  Do they not like their politics or is it more sinister?  Are they trying to hurt their chances of running for higher office?  We may never know because the letters were unsigned.  We don't even know if the same person sent both letters.  It could be two different people. 

Some may say we shouldn't air these stories because they were from anonymous letters.  I can assure you we've had that very debate in our newsroom.  In the end, I think it came down to this.  In both cases, the information was right and I believe both were newsworthy.  Rules are rules and I think you should know when our politicians don't follow them. 

The reality is we wouldn't be in business if it weren't for tips.  But it does make me uncomfortable that we keep getting anonymous letters targeting Roanoke City Council Members.  Who is next?  If we get another one of these letters, News 7 and other news organizations need to seriously consider not running a story.  I promise you we will have that debate if that day arrives.  Our decision would be easier if the information wasn't so good.


July 16. 2010

Truth in Advertising!

It seems every-time I turn on the news these days, someone is touting an exclusive.  I laugh because often times it really isn't.  To me, an exclusive is something no one else has or no one else is going to get.  Case in point?  During the oil spill crisis, CNN was recently calling its interview with T. Boone Pickens an exclusive.  Far from it.  I interviewed Mr. Pickens when he came to W&L last year.  He is more than happy to talk about his oil plan and you often seen him all over the media doing just that.  There really was nothing exclusive about it.

This week one of our competitors was touting an exclusive with Senator Mark Warner.  Again, not an exclusive.  Here is the back story.  First of all, it was a satellite interview and Senator Warner's office paid for it.  His people called us asking if we wanted the interview.  We declined.  I am not sure our competitor knew this so I will give them the benefit of the doubt.  However, I've interviewed Senator Warner many times over the years and he is never shy about talking on camera.  Is an interview with him really ever an exclusive?

On Monday (July 19th) News 7 will have an interview with the new principal at William Fleming High School.  Our promotions people asked if we can call it an exclusive.  I told them no.  As far as I am aware, we are the only ones who have so far asked him for an interview.  If he said to me "Justin I am only going to talk to you" then sure we could call it an exclusive.  But he didn't and we are not going to do it. 


July 13, 2010