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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

P-O'd

It was one of those things that causes endless debate in the newsroom.

Newswatch 16's Bob Reynolds did a story Monday about a man in Pottsville who pleaded "no contest" to a pair of homicide charges. In pleading no contest, the defendant said his memory of the killings was clouded by drug and alcohol abuse. As far as sentencing goes, "no contest" is the same as guilty, and a judge sent the man to prison for a pair of life terms.

That wasn't good enough for one of the victim's friends. She said she was "pissed off."

Let's talk a little about the "process." Reporters do stories. Managers approve the scripts. Apparently, one of the managers thought "pissed off" was suitable for air. I wasn't around Monday afternoon to express my opinion, and I probably wouldn't have been asked, anyway.

Tuesday morning rolls around, and I was producing "Newswatch 16 This Morning." In other words, the newscast was in my hands-- a frightening proposition. I saw the "pissed off" story, thought about it for a while, and included it in our Tuesday morning broadcast. I wasn't thrilled with it, but the young lady who uttered the "pissed off" comment had something to say. She was angry, and her comments, even sans "pissed off" were interesting and powerful.

It aired in the 5:30 AM segment of the broadcast. Tom and Mindi objected. We re-edited the piece to bleep out "pissed off" for the other three hours. I deferred to the anchors here. After all, they are the faces of the broadcast, and I never want anchors to feel uncomfortable with a story. Been there. I anchor a couple days a week, myself-- Newswatch 16, 5 to 8 AM Saturdays and Sundays. Let's all be there.

So, that takes us back to square one. Should "pissed off" have been included in the first place? Number of phone calls after the story aired at 5:30 AM? Zero. Internet Talkback 16 postings as of 2:00 PM Tuesday? Zero.

I feel it comes down to this: What may be appropriate (word used loosely) in the evening broadcasts might not be right for the early morning hours. It's just a theory I'm throwing out here. I'm not sure Mom wants little Zeke to hear "pissed off" while she's getting him ready for school.

I don't think I was wrong Tuesday morning. I don't think I was right, either.

Once again, I will quote the great Tony Kornheiser: "We'll try to do better the next time."

Sorry for the lack of a graphic today. I'm sure you understand.