Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook


Posted October 26, 2006

A lot of what we do in TV journalism is to help people who feel like they have been "wronged," for lack of a better word.

Obviously, we can't help everyone who calls us or sends us e-mail. We would have to have an entire department to handle that kind of volume. We do have a separate division that handles consumer issues, 5 on Your Side. Still, many of these cases don't fall into this category and are passed along to reporters.

Because I cover crime, I am most likely to get complaints from people who say they have been handled inappropriately by law enforcement. This past week, I received many of these calls due to the interaction people had with officers from many agencies at the North Carolina State Fair. We take these calls seriously. We investigate them, but we can't, and don't, do stories on each case.

First, we have to make sure the complainant has filed a formal complaint with the agency they are accusing of wrongdoing. If not, it's hard to view the case as credible.

Second, if someone says they are going to file a lawsuit, that's not enough. Call us when you do it. If you can't find a lawyer who sees merit in the case, it again goes to credibility.

And finally, many of these stories simply turn into he said, she said pieces. Often, the truth falls somewhere in between the two versions. If we can't decipher from our research that something untoward really happened, it's probably not going to make it on air.

Clearly, these are all subjective decisions made not just by the reporter, but with the help of news producers and managers. We want people to call us when they feel they have been "wronged," and we will listen. We just can't make any promises the story will make it to air.

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.