Justin McLeod's Blog

August 10th


Verizon workers are on strike.  This always puts TV news in a bind.  Our job is to cover both sides of the story but that is often difficult during strikes.  

The striking workers are usually willing to do interviews with the news media.  It certainly makes for great video when workers stand outside the company holding picket signs, shouting at passerby's.  

Unfortunately, it is harder to tell the company's side of the story.  The company typically doesn't make someone available for us to interview.  In the Verizon situation, we've been able to interview a spokesperson but he is in Richmond so we have to do phone interviews.  We also understand managers apparently are doing the work the striking workers normally do.  We've asked the company to shoot some video of that but our request has been denied.

I've covered plenty of strikes over the years and I've noticed many unions expect us to cover stories a certain way.  They get mad if you don't follow their script.  During a strike a few years ago, I got some of the nastiest e-mails of my career because I covered a story in a way the union didn't like.  Unions don't realize we don't work for them.  We are supposed to be neutral.  

I hope this provide some insight on how we cover strikes and why.  We are not taking the side of the striking workers.  It is just hard sometimes to tell the company's side of the story.


August 2nd

A rant

My latest blog entry is something I've talked about before but now I am officially on a crusade.  People are too rude and too mean.  Sure, I realize this has been a problem since the beginning of time but lately it's been out of control.  We need to nip it in the bud.  Will you join my crusade?

The problem is especially bad online.  I can't believe what some will write on facebook, in an e-mail, or on the comment section of our website.  Let me give you some recent examples.  A News 7 viewer e-mailed us criticizing our news.  Here at News 7 we don't mind criticism.  We are not perfect and can always do better.  But this e-mail was totally inappropriate.  

This person wrote "what will happen once Robin (who is great) leaves?  Who will replace him?  The guy with the lisp, or the guy with cancer?  I'm ignoring the guy (Brent) who seems like a tool."    At this moment, I want you to pause and think about what this person just wrote.

This e-mail was rude, mean, and disgusting.  You can add your own adjective.  Here is the bottom line, why would anyone ever write something like this?

It doesn't stop there.  On one of my colleague's facebook page, a gentleman posted that she looked like she had gained a few pounds lately.  Again, very rude.  She sent him an e-mail explaining her situation.  He sent an e-mail back saying "good to know."  Really dude?, you can't apologize.  My colleague defriended him on facebook.  He turned around and sent her a friend request.  

What I don't think these people realize is your words hurt.  Don't put in writing what you wouldn't say to someone's face.  I can be a mean and blunt person at times so I don't want to sound like a hypocrite but this mean streak some people have is over the top.  BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER!


July 13

Food Fight

I am kinda baffled by all the criticism of First Lady Michelle Obama and her recent big lunch.  Mrs. Obama visited Shake Shack in Washington D.C. and ordered a hamburger, fries, a chocolate shake, and a diet coke.  It is basically a meal with more than 1,500 calories.   Some are criticizing Michelle Obama because she advocates the Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity.  Critics are saying she is a hypocrite.  Not so in my opinion.

Let me get this straight, the First Lady can never eat a hamburger and fries?  I would be concerned if she was eating like this on a regular basis.  This woman isn't fat and having a hamburger and fries one time isn't going to make her fat.  Leave her alone.  

While I'm at it, I am not a big fan of blaming McDonalds and other fast food restaurants for making kids fat.  What ever happened to parental responsibility?  Parents take their kids to McDonalds and they buy it.  Why can't we share the blame?  The best way to fight childhood obesity is for parents to stop taking their kids to the fast food joints.  When I was a kid, McDonalds was a treat we got every few weeks, not several times a week.

Just for the record I try to limit my fast food intake to once a week.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  After reading and seeing all the criticism about Mrs. Obama, I am in the mood for a burger and fries! 


June 30

Should all presidential press conferences be carried live?

We received a number of complaints for airing President Obama's press conference Wednesday morning.  It lasted 67 minutes.  Soap fans were especially mad because it pre-empted a little of Young and the Restless.

I can understand why they are angry.  I don't think the president really said anything of national importance.  President Obama essentially put Republicans on notice about the debate over deficit talks.  You could argue the press conference was more political than anything else.  As a result, I don't think broadcast networks should break into programming for every presidential news conference.  Let's carry them live when there's an important reason.  President announces troops are coming home?  Carry it live.  President announces Osama Bin Laden is dead?  Carry it live.  President tells us how his daughters get their homework done early and they don't wait til the last minute?  No.  President Obama was making the point Republicans need to get a deal done early on the deficit, don't wait til the last minute.  

I also noticed the news media was making a big deal that this was President Obama's first press conference since March.  Outside of the Washington beltway, does the average American really care how often the president gives a press conference?  I don't think so.  I think it is a way for reporters to send a message to the president that they want more news conferences.  I realize press conferences are important to reporters but I don't think they are important enough to break into programming every time.

With that being said, I have a message for soap opera fans.  You will be ok if you miss one episode.  I've watched soaps on and off for years and you can stop watching and easily pick them back up months later.  To those Young and the Restless fans who missed one episode, I can report Victor Newman is still evil!

June 16

Are Grand Openings News?

Chipotle has opened its doors in Roanoke.  It was big news.  Both the TV stations and the newspaper covered it extensively.  News 7 even had a live shot the night before showing people camping out for the big opening.  It made for great tv but these stories always leave me asking, is it really news?

On the one hand, you could argue it is not news.  Essentially, we are doing a free commercial for Chipotle.  The same could be said for the grand openings of Panera Bread, the Clearbrook Walmart, and the first stand alone Starbucks in Roanoke.  

On the other hand, you could argue we cover these grand openings because there is a lot of interest.  Chipotle's opening was the most viewed story on our website one day last week.  That shows me our viewers want to know what's new in their community.  As we've seen time after time, Roanokers are hungry to try a restaurant that is completely new to the Star City.   Just look at the long lines at Chiptole or Cheddars at Valley View Mall, both opened in the last few months.

I am also bothered by what grand openings we choose to cover and which ones we don't.  Did we cover Chiptole's opening?  Yes.  Cheddars? No.  Will we cover the opening of Longhorn Steakhouse at Valley View this summer?  Probably not.  Every time an old building in downtown Roanoke is renovated and turned into apartments it seems we cover it.  But if a new apartment complex opened on Route 460, I don't think we would cover it.  Why?  I don't have a real answer.  There really is no rhyme or reason.  Silly I know but at least it is a honest response.


June 7


I read something really interesting in the Roanoke Times over the weekend.  It was about the rally to oust Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt.  The article stated the managing editor of The Franklin News-Post interrupted the organizer's speech and peppered him with questions.  Our reporter Justin Ward was there and confirmed the outburst.  Apparently the guy who organized the rally, Joe Stanley, is a former Democratic strategist. The article says Kim Wagoner is a former Republican political campaigner.   Wagoner reportedly said Stanley was using the event as a campaign tool.  This outburst is troubling on so many levels.

I don't know Kim Wagoner, never met her.  I will say her questions were legitimate.  What are Stanley's motives?  Are they more political in nature?  However, Wagoner was wrong when she interrupted the rally shortly after it started and yelled questions at Stanley.  Why the rush?  Stanley hasn't been avoiding the news media.  Something tells me he would have talked to her before or after the rally.  It would have been one thing if he was refusing to talk to the news media.  Instead, Wagoner made herself the story.  She is compromised and should be removed from covering it.

This is a good time to remind everyone journalists shouldn't be involved in politics.  I don't donate to political campaigns.  I don't attend campaign rallies unless I am working.  I am not going to lie, I have political beliefs but I rarely talk about them, only with close friends.  But when I go into work, I leave my beliefs at the door.  

I also believe people who once worked in politics shouldn't be journalists.  George Stephanopoulos used to work for President Bill Clinton.  He is now the anchor of Good Morning America.  Tim Russert once worked for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan before becoming the moderator of Meet the Press.  Russert passed away a few years ago.   I am just using these two as examples.  As much as they try/tried to be fair and balanced, I can't forget they once worked for politicians.  George Stephanopoulos interviewed conservative pundit Ann Coulter on Good Morning America Tuesday.  He asked her some tough questions.  If you are a conservative, you may be asking yourself was Stephanopoulos being fair to Coulter?  I am not saying Stephanopoulos was unfair, I'm just saying I can see why people thought he was because of his previous work in politics.  It goes to show you sometimes politics and journalism don't mix.



June 2