Delaying News Stories, Reporters Helping Law Enforcement, and How the Race for Memphis Mayor is good news for a Local Company

Some folks apparently are a little upset that the news of the death of former televangelist Tammy Faye Messner was delayed until after she had been cremated and that CNN’s Larry King  agreed to make the announcement about 36 hours after the event.  I say big deal.  The family says they asked for the delay so family members could have time to gather.  It’s their call.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that a new organization sat on a big, exclusive story so they could milk it for all it’s worth.  Local stations do this all the time and their biggest concern is that somehow, while they’re sitting on the story, that word will get out and that the competition will steal their thunder.  Then the station that had the original exclusive will be forced to promote the fact that their story is better.

The story of the Chicago TV reporter who got the boot after video surfaced of her in a swimsuit at the house of a guy whose wife had mysteriously disappeared is still swirling about.  One of the concerns that has come out of this is that it was revealed that this reporter was working to some degree as an informant for police.  Some have seen this as the end of journalism as we know it and therefore the end of the world.  Others see this as a way to curry favor with investigators.  Some argue that by cooperating with authorities, the reporter  compromised Journalistic Integrity while others contend J-I is right up there with Military Intelligence on the list of oxymorons.  I can see how the TV reporter in question figured she could work with investigators.  I think her big mistake was in not letting management know about it.  That way she covers her bases in case things go south as they did in her case.   The reality is, reporters work with the law on a regular basis in some capacity.  News types do everything from stopping by with cookies or donuts to sharing some information.  And more times than not, they are encouraged to do this by managers.  They’re not doing this for any reason other than hoping that when the big story is ready to break, their contact in the police department will call them with the tip.  The big question is, how far do you take it.  Some aggressive and ambitious reporters will do just about anything to get the “big” story.  And once they get the reputation as being the person who will get the “big” story, they have pressure on them to make it happen again and again.  Some find that getting the “big” story is addictive and like any addiction they have to keep getting the “get”.  Where do you draw the line?  That question is still being debated in newsrooms around the country.

And finally, the announcement by Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton that he is not going to run for the post of Mayor of Memphis is good news for the incumbent and for one local company.  I’ve mentioned that company here before when they came out with a line of T-shirts and coffee mugs that were inspired by the local political shenanigans.   That company is SnappyGreetings  .  I was talking to one of the owners, Norm Adcox who was telling me about their newest products called The Snappy Speakeasy.  In addition to featuring one with the vocal likeness of George W. Bush and Al Gore, there is one that honors Hizzonner, Willie Herenton.  By pushing one of the half dozen buttons on the device, you hear a variety of statements.  Now according to some political pundits, if AC Wharton had gotten into the the race for Memphis Mayor, he would have won.  There is speculation that Mayor WW will now win re-election.  And that is good for Snappy Greetings because between now and Christmas time, I would expect they will sell a fair number of these Speakeasy devices for stocking stuffers and gag gifts.  I will bet that a number of folks fleeing the city for Desoto County, MS, Crittenden County, AR and Fayette and Tipton Counties in Tennessee will want these for their friends at the coffee shop.  It’s one of those ideas that I wished I had thought of.  Maybe next time.

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12 Comments on “Delaying News Stories, Reporters Helping Law Enforcement, and How the Race for Memphis Mayor is good news for a Local Company”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    In order:

    1) Larry King specializes in talking to the dead or near-dead. Don’t believe me? Watch over the course of a month and see how many “best of” Larrys, featuring departed or gravely ill guests air. Since he’s about what, 112, I’m sure it’s okay.

    2) Whenever you make compromises for information, it always comes back to bite you. And there are always enough “old heads” at the cop shop to make trust a sketchy issue at best. When I was working the streets of Memphis (sounds like a cop show), law enforcement officers would look me in the face and flat out lie to me, usually to protect a comrade. I’m just saying, a lot of folks in that business will always see the media as adversaries — even though both provide (or should) a public service.

    3) Drake ‘n’ Zeke were going crazy with the “I hate Mike Fleming” button on the Herenton speakeasy the other day. And regardless of whether Willie is a good mayor or bad — whoever wins will have to make a major impact on both the crime rate and the appearance of crime as portrayed in the media — THAT’s a big part of why folks are running for the border.

  2. The GM Says:

    “I think her big mistake was in not letting management know about it. That way she covers her bases in case things go south as they did in her case.”

    I’ve always told my folks. If you’re going to go out on a limb, you better have me out there with you because I can cushion your fall. If I’m not there, you may get hurt.

    The GM

  3. joelarkins Says:

    I am curious about something. While I’m not up on all of the details of what happened in the Chicago case, from what you know about it, as a GM was the firing of the reporter overkill or does it sound like something else was in the works here as well. Just curious about your thoughts. Plus, as a GM, since this story began to unfold, have you shared with the newsroom the need to not go overboard in the pursuit of a story or perhaps given some other advice to the ND about the news troops?

  4. Doug J. Says:

    While we’re waiting for the GM’s response, I wonder what one of our old bosses, who is now a GM, would have done. You know who I mean — the one who fashioned himself a “sleazy news whore…” On the one hand, he actually does have good news judgement — but on the other — I always thought he’d do just about anything for good ratings. Might his advice have been “don’t get caught?”

  5. The GM Says:

    I think the move was justified and overdue. When the story broke my ND commented to me that he was wondering what was taking the station in Chicago so long. The reporter exhibited very poor judgement — both professionally and personally. Who in their right mind would take their kids swimming at a suspected murder’s house? This wasn’t take your daughter to work day, was it?

    If her management knew of her specific investigative methods and did not back her up, the the ND should be fired. As a manager you’ve got to stand behind your folks when their doing what you want done. If this ND didn’t want to know to have an aspect of deniablility, well the ND is still at fault. I sure not many folks would want to work for that person in the future.

    My gut tells me this reporter was off the reservation and doing things her way. Too bad, sounds like a good career was washed away with that leap into the pool.

    The GM

  6. autoegocrat Says:

    I hope that the GM’s attitude is fairly typical of what I can expect should I ever find myself working in a newsroom. At any (non-journalism) job I’ve ever had, CYA was always the rule, and a manager wouldn’t hesitate to throw a loyal soldier under the bus if it saved his own skin.

    It sounds to me like “journalistic integrity” beats the heck out of “middle manager integrity.”

  7. Doug J. Says:

    Reference to #3 in first response. So I said the next mayor would have to deal with the crime problem?

    Headline in Commercial Appeal today: “Herenton touts closing crack houses.”

    I’m just sayin’

  8. joelarkins Says:

    Doug, Perhaps you ought to give up that day job and open that political consulting gig that I know you’ve always dreamed about. Maybe you have your finger on the pulse of this city more than you realize or maybe the mayor reads this blog or perhaps…..nawwwwwwww, never mind.

  9. the tall tv guy Says:

    Tammy Faye isn’t the first celebrity to have news of their death be delayed. Most people don’t watch much news on the weekend.

    Noticed how ch. 3 has changed their newscast presentation in the last few weeks? More aggressive but tabloid type…so I’m getting most of my news off the internet.

    I wish stations, and networks for that matter, would give us the objective facts and don’t put a slant or spin on it….it’s too obvious.

  10. Jeff Says:

    Too Bad its past the July 19 Deadline ,We could use Doug at City Hall

  11. joelarkins Says:

    Yah, right now the only thing Doug could run for is the state line. (rimshot) Goodnight folks, make sure you tip your waitress.

  12. Doug J. Says:

    See, if I was gonna run, Joe’d have to be my campaign manager. So the folks who weren’t mad at me would be mad at him… Well, it would just get all kinds of ugly.


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