Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

When the shoe doesn't fit

Posted May 9, 2008

Every day we make decisions in a newsroom that aren't always popular. 

Sometimes, we even disagree internally about how certain stories should be handled.  We have many discussions, debates – and yes, sometimes, arguments about how to approach a story.

As a reporter who primarily covers crime, I firmly believe in our right to report arrests and the information contained in search warrants.  They are part of the public record. 

I also believe in giving people accused of a crime the opportunity to tell their side of the story. 

But clearly , talking to a reporter is not always seen as an opportunity. 

Chances are, if you see me at your door, you're having a bad day. 

But when the shoe doesn't fit – when we leap to conclusions or connections that may not be there – that's when I get concerned.

Today, we reported on the story of a local college football star who now plays in the NFL.  His brother is facing drug charges in Raleigh. The house where the brother lives is owned by the football player.  His mother and brothers live there. 

In past years, the NFL player did have some run-ins with the law that involved substance abuse.  But in this situation there was no connection. 

The suspect and his high-profile brother had been estranged for more than a year.  Raleigh police made it very clear the football player was not at the house, not charged, and not believed to be involved in the crime in any way. 

I also had the chance to talk to the player's wife, his agent and another brother, who all echoed the fact that this man didn't have any idea what his brother was involved in and had no relationship with him.  He was even out of the state at the time of the search and arrest. 

Yet, there's no doubt that even the implication this man might be connected to his brother is damaging to his reputation.

When you're in the public eye, there's a price.  I know it only too well. 

People feel like they have the right to say anything they want about you with little regard to truth or how it might affect you.  All too often in our culture we are cavalier when we discuss the reputations of high-profile people because we feel like they have knowingly put themselves in the spotlight and should know what to expect. 

But at the end of the day journalism should always be about the facts and what's fair, period. 

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.