Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook


Posted March 3, 2008 9:35 a.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2008 3:28 p.m. EST

It is never the big stories that catch the viewers' attention.  It is always the one that, for some reason, prompts a visceral reaction in the audience that earns the most feedback.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, at 5 p.m, WRAL aired the story of a woman who had put a hidden camera in her home to record what was going on with her twin infant boys while she was at work.  What she saw remotely from her computer at work – rough treatment by the nanny – sent her flying home.  She fired the nanny, called police, and ultimately contacted us.

Our story touched off a firestorm of national reports.  Every network carried it in one form or another. The CBS Early Show, FOX's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren and CNN's Nancy Grace interviewed the mother and used a panel of experts to critique the situation.

Initially, the Cary police told us there would be no charges – right before we aired the story and then again five days later. However, this past Thursday, they apparently re-evaluated that decision and sent the tapes to the Wake County District Attorney's Office to let them decide whether or not charges are warranted. There's no doubt the national media attention and pressure played a role in how this situation played out.

Our radio station, Mix 101.5, is also taking an interest in the story in a creative way. They are giving away nanny cams to their listeners this week.

So, what is it about this story that seems to have struck a nerve among so many people including hundreds of bloggers who have weighed in on our Web site?  I think it comes down to one simple fact: It could be any one of us in this mother's situation. 

When we report on a murder, for example, the audience rarely identifies with the story. Murders are aberrations that rarely happen to average people. But this story is getting an emotional reaction from parents across the country that work and depend upon caregivers to watch their children during the day. It touches a nerve because we want to believe our children are safe, but this reminds us that we don't always know the truth.

Ultimately, like every news story, this one has a life that will dwindle and fade from the public's consciousness as other issues take center stage.  But few stories ever get to this level of public discussion, and I believe that it's a productive discussion, one that parents need to have, and one that may in the long-run keep more children safe.

For now it is still a hot topic.  Chances are if you ask someone at the grocery store: "Did you see that nanny-cam video?," they will know what you're talking about.

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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.