Category Archives: Quick Thoughts

Oops! Our Murrow win was a “clerical error”

This morning’s elation among our investigative team quickly turned sour when we found out we DID NOT win a regional Edward R. Murrow award.

For a few hours this morning RTDNA listed our “Roommates with Benefits” story as a winner in the investigative category.

One of our news managers was told it was a “clerical error.”

I’m pretty bummed about this after high-fiving ourselves for most of the morning and enjoying the giddy mood.

I’ve been wanting to win a Murrow for most of my career and I was pretty excited.

I hate to phrase it this way, but we were the victims of inaccurate information.  We excitedly shared the news all over our social media accounts this morning.

Now its time to correct the information and the feeling SUCKS.

I’m not angry at RTNDA, though.

Mistakes happen and I’ve certainly made my share over my career so it would be stupid for me to be angry and furious over this.

Nobody is perfect and after all, RTDNA had to handle hundreds and hundreds of awards.

If anything, we will use this feeling as a good reminder that it is always important for us to be accurate when putting information out to a mass audience.

Congrats to my colleagues in other markets who won!

 

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences

In the wake of Shea Allen’s termination, she appears to be under the impression she is “standing up for free speech.”

I’m not sure Allen understands how the First Amendment works.

Free speech means we have the right to say what we want without fear of government detention, sanctions and censorship.

In most cases, I can go on a public sidewalk and spew whatever I want without a ticket or some sort of citation.

I can say almost whatever I want online.

But what some people don’t understand is the First Amendment is not some ubiquitous statute or shield that can protect you from private, personal consequences.

WAAY-TV had every right to fire Allen under the laws that govern civil contracts.

As a private enterprise, the station likely saw Allen as a liability to the station’s image and credibility.

There’s likely a good chance Allen has what’s called a “moral turpitude” clause in her contract.  Such a clause would give the station civil authority to terminate employment if it feels an employee’s behavior doesn’t jive with the standard of behavior the “community” would find morally acceptable.

I’m sure the majority of people reading Allen’s list of confessions would find that stealing mail is unacceptable.

Discriminating against the elderly is also something most people would find objectionable.

There would be a First Amendment violation if a local police officer cited Allen for her post or if the government forced Google to censor her blog.

A few posts down from this particular write-up (here on my blog), I expressed sympathy for AJ Clemente, who ended up getting fired for saying some curse words on air.

While she didn’t curse, what Allen revealed was far more vulgar.

She claims she is human and is just being honest.

True.

While they have the same medieval linguistic roots, in this case there is no honor in honesty.

On AJ Clemente and his future….

 

I honestly feel sorry for the guy.

While AJ Clemente was terminated for his awkward on-air debacle, he’s accepting responsibility and learning the hard lesson a hot microphone can be the guillotine of a reporter’s career.

Yeah, he said some pretty bad words on TV…stuff you shouldn’t say on an FCC licensed station.

While his mistake is quite amusing and easy to laugh at, I’ve got to express my sincere empathy for the dude.

Like a bad zit that won’t go away, Clemente’s mistake will now live forever on YouTube. Future employers googling his name will likely find that awkward moment years from now.

Thank goodness YouTube didn’t exist when I began in TV news.

All of you would have a field day.

Here’s a couple of my screw-ups I remember:

-During one of my first live shots, I remember stopping right in the middle. I just stopped and looked into the camera. I froze. I didn’t know what to say. The anchor took over awkwardly. I remember walking back into the station and the whole newsroom was crowded around a TV laughing at it. A confidence killer. I almost quit.

-While anchoring, I got the giggles talking about “World Psoriasis Day.” I couldn’t stop. I laughed through the whole newscast…NON STOP.

-I was teasing a story about “Funk Master Rick James.” When I said the word “funk,” it came out like that other F-word. Ugh. I wanted to leave earth’s orbit that night.

When we screw up in front of THOUSANDS of people, we are often told we suck through twitter or Facebook.

It comes with the territory.

TV news guys, especially when we first start out, are easy targets as we try to look professional while looking more like Fred Savage in a suit.

But those of us who’ve managed to stay in this industry have somehow found the motivation to get in front of an unforgiving audience again and again after we do something seriously embarrassing.

I wish Clemente good luck in the future.

I’m not sure if he will have a career in TV news after this…but as his twitter page says

“Keep on, Keeping on…”

Among an angry family in court

If there’s one place a TV reporter should NOT be, it’s sitting in court among angry family members of a convicted child killer.

They are deeply upset and are looking to channel their anger at someone or something.

A reporter like myself is an easy target.

I knew sitting among the Keith Ruiz family was probably not a good idea, even though this was my first time covering this case.

I should have picked my seat earlier.  There was no other place to sit.   Lesson learned.

Ruiz already pleaded guilty and admitted to body-slamming his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter because she wouldn’t stop crying.   She later died as a result of head injuries.

Towards the end of a heavy, emotional hearing, an unidentified Ruiz family member turned towards me and told me “not to paint him as a monster like everyone else does.”

Of course, when I offered this man an on camera interview to defend Ruiz, he declined and shook his head at such a revolting offer.

I heard the rest of the family sigh in disgust as if I’m the one responsible for their loved one’s character and credibility.

I told them they could be angry at me and that’s fine, but I was willing to share their side of the story.

A family member then turned to one of deputies and said I was “stirring people up.”

I was in the middle of a hornets nest, I sensed trouble and I got up quickly and I left my seat.

A really cool deputy saw and heard the predicament I was in.

She went out of her way to find me a seat next to the prosecution.

Ruiz was given a 36 year sentence, four years below the maximum under the stipulated plea agreement.

His family left.   I didn’t bother approaching them, knowing things could have turned bad.

I wrote my report, while trying to be fair as possible.

Looking back, I still debate with myself if I should have even engaged the family.

But it’s my job to offer them their say, even if some of them would like to punch me in the face.

I walked out of court making sure I was aware of my surroundings, leaving behind another case, another convict and another short life remembered in court.

The little girl who was killed didn’t have a voice.

And that’s the real shame.

Intimidation Tactics by Agfinity Over Possible Hate Speech Sticker

This sticker was sold by a store owned by Agfinity in Eaton, Colorado.

This sticker was sold by a store owned by Agfinity in Eaton, Colorado.

Today, I feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode.

Or maybe it’s more like the Twilight Zone.

I just got off the phone with the media/marking spokesperson with Agfinity and I can’t believe what I was just told.

During that phone conversation, media/marking employee Mark Reinert alluded if I did a report on his company he would possibly send “candid” video of me to another television station “if we have to” and that they would talk to my “superiors.”

While Reinert didn’t directly indicate what the video captured, he hinted it shows me planting evidence against his company.

I HOPE ANOTHER TV STATION PICKS THIS “CANDID” VIDEO.  PLEASE!

Apparently Reinert and company are desperate and fear a TV report about a big mistake they made involving what could be characterized as hate speech.

One of their convenience stores was found to be selling “Illegal Immigrant Hunting Permits” stickers at their shop in Eaton (see photo).

A viewer tipped us off about this sticker through an email and I paid a visit to their store in Eaton today.

I walked over to the rack of stickers but didn’t see the stickers for sale….at least not immediately.

There was an empty part of the rack, so I assumed they were removed.

However I did find the “Illegal Immigrant Hunting Permit” sticker under another stack on the rack.

I paid for it, along with a water and a Power Bar and then walked out.

Two managers came out and told me they shouldn’t have sold me the sticker.

They apparently removed them after complaints they were getting on their Facebook page, like this one.

Obviously they didn’t remove all the stickers.

I’m still moving forward with the story tomorrow after we do some research on the company that actually makes the stickers and distributes the product to Agfinity stores.

And if you see me on “candid” video planting the sticker THEY SOLD ME, please let me know.

I need a good laugh, because after years of being an investigative reporter, I’m dumb enough to plant evidence in a store with security video.

Please watch for my story tomorrow (Thursday).

Do you like your name?

What you’re about to read is going to sound like it was ripped from the pages of a $4.99 self-help book found in the clearance bin at Barnes and Noble.

Excuse the cheesiness.

By the way, I could totally go for some cheese right now.  The good kind on nachos that gets kinda hard after awhile but is still delicious.  But not the horrible stuff you buy in blocks found at some organic grocery store.

I’m 33.  Is it still acceptable for me to eat string cheese by peeling it like a banana?

Anyway….

I was really impressed with this guy I met weeks ago before Christmas.   His name is James Holmes and he is sticking by his name, despite some inconveniences he’s had to deal with since the theater shooting.

His story made me think about self-identity and how we see ourselves as people through our names.

Our names were given to us, without our input, by our parents.   I guess if they did ask us in the beginning, we’d have a bunch of Goo-Goo Smiths and Gaggahhahawaaaaah Andersons running around.   Hahahaha!!  Jojola sounds good.

I’m actualy named somewhat after Jeremiah Johnson (Jeremy Jon), the mountain man.   I think that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.  I would be a horrible mountain man, though.  I like the conveniences of toilet paper .  And warm socks.   Not dying of hypothermia is cool too.

When we say or hear someone’s name, we may think of their physical image, but who they are often comes with the mental connection.

Like when I hear the name Mister Rogers, I think….nice dude in a sweater.

Lance Armstrong….cheater on a bike.

If only we could really know what perceptions people have of us when they mention our name during discussions or when they write Christmas cards.

Our name grows with us and it’s used by people who love us and sometimes by people who may detest our existence.

You can’t control who uses your name and how they use it.   If they trash it, that’s cool.  Their mental waste bin is likely full and they have their own problems with garbage.

Gossip is the junk food of conversation.  Let them have their fill.

But do YOU like your name?

If you do, I bet you’re doing okay.

Analysis: CU Holmes Emails

My eyes are tired.

After scrolling through 1,000s of emails, I can report a TAD bit of new information.    To be honest, nothing really significant came out of these emails.

But here are the emails I personally found slightly interesting:

The fMRI Email

Holmes received a lot of request, sent out campus wide, to participate in studies. He responded to a Jason Smucny, to participate in some sort of “fmri” study.

I’m not an academic, but this may have more info on what exactly an fMRI is….apparently brain mapping.

“Hey Jason,

The fmri study sounds interesting and I would like to be a subject if possible.

Cheers,

James Holmes.

Why is this interesting?

I’m still trying to do research on exactly what the brain mapping study was about. But it’s clear it peaked Holmes’ interest. Was the study seeking people with certain mental conditions? I found this after a google search:

Did this study interest Holmes?

Did this schizophrenia study interest Holmes?

The Relationship email

A CU pharmacology professor wrote James Holmes may have had a girlfriend for a brief time.

“Yeah, he was a grad student here, and, it turns out, had a brief romantic relationship with one of the grad students in my program last fall.  She, fortunately, it turns out is in India right now.  She knows, and is pretty freaked out.”  -Dr. Larry Hunter / July 20th

Why is this interesting?

We heard rumors Holmes may have had a girlfriend, but nobody verified that and the people who have spoken publicly about him never mentioned anything about a girl.  If he did have a relationship, what did she know?  Did she see any danger signs?

The Rejection email

The same professor who mentioned a relationship also indicated Holmes was rejected for lab rotations.

“He rotated in the labs of two professors I know (one of whom just walked out of my office), and was rejected for a rotation by one other.  The guy I talked to didn’t’ say that he had any indication of anything, but I would be very cautious about saying anything like that if I were him.”

Why is this interesting?

Several universities expressed deep interest in Holmes and courted him to study on their campus.  One professor in Iowa, after meeting him in person, changed his mind about Holmes.

Why would Holmes, who was a star student, be rejected?   Exactly when did the “downward spiral,” as prosecutors noted in documents, begin?

The Social Media email

One of the heads of the CU Neuroscience Department made an effort to keep a lid on information coming out of her department during the morning of July 20th.

“In the meantime, I’m requesting that you please not post anything on Facebook, Twitter, etc.” –Dr. Cammie Kennedy

Why is this interesting?

This email possibly stifled loads of first-hand observations about the suspect and his behavior at the university before the shooting.

Students and faculty in the department may have a wealth of anecdotes that the public would definitely find of serious interest, especially if anybody saw hints of violence or concerns.   We can learn from them and what they may have seen.

I don’t remember any significant tweets coming from students or staff within the neurosciences department.

It’s clear the university moved FAST to keep this information from going public through social media and it worked.

Was it for the best?

Many questions remain…..

BLOG: What’s up with Pat Sullivan’s cane?

Sullivan seen without his cane during surveillance and Sullivan at court in the public eye.

On Tuesday I sat in court and heard a probation officer call former sheriff Pat Sullivan “manipulative” and dishonest.

This made me think about what I observed of Sullivan when he knew he was being watched and when he didn’t think a camera was recording his behavior.

Every time I’ve seen Sullivan show up to court, he’s used a cane.   He even used it when he bonded out of jail and was swarmed by news cameras.

But for some reason Sullivan didn’t use his cane once during time I spent doing some surveillance.

When I first heard the former sheriff was violating his probation, I spent four days doing surveillance to see if Sullivan was doing anything against the terms of his probation.

I saw Sullivan NUMEROUS times walking around WITHOUT his cane. There were even times I saw him loading some things into his car.  I saw him walk into a hospital.  I even saw him walk into a drug testing facility, all without his cane.  He does walk with a slight limp even when he is not using it.

But for some reason, when Sullivan is surrounded by news cameras and going to court, he uses the cane.  Here’s a brief video I made showing  what I saw during my surveillance:

Silence over the death of a little boy

Andres Estrada was 6 years old when he was killed. Documents say he wasn’t potty trained.

There is something suspicious going on in Federal Heights.

Or at least that’s what I’m lead to believe given the lack of transparency and the silence in the horrible case of Andres Estrada.

Before he was killed while riding his tricycle in the street, there were numerous calls to police by neighbors who complained about seeing Andres constantly riding his bike, sometimes in diapers, in the busy road.

The Adams County Human Services Department also sent caseworkers to the home based on complaints regarding neglect and no supervision.   That agency isn’t talking either as it cites privacy laws.

The silence does not mean mistakes were made in the handling of Estrada’s case before he was killed……but it certainly increases suspicion that the two agencies may be hiding something.

Tonight at 9 and 10, we’ll show you how a lack of transparency in child welfare cases makes it easy for agencies to escape accountability.

 

How gag orders can create more publicity

My drive to get information is often fueled by the intensity of public interest.

The Aurora theater shooting case continues to be one of the most read news items on 9NEWS.com, even when mundane court procedural developments are published.

For now the gag order and sealed documents keep much of the significant details about the case secret.

What did the suspect allegedly say and do before the shooting?

Motive?

Intent?

Why?

But as the famous Streisand effect goes, the more you try to keep something secret, the more interesting it becomes.

The unknown becomes a story in itself. When there is no public official to quote or court document to attribute, reporters cite sources.

Those sources may not have accurate information which is then spread exponentially through other media outlets that may attribute the reporter with the bad source.

Ironically the gag-order, which is designed to limit pre-trial publicity, actually has a negative side-effect of what judges and attorneys don’t want—more publicity.