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March 4, 2008
News10 comes clean on nonexclusive 'exclusive'

0832205912_mom-moves2-185.jpg
Screen shot from News10's "exclusive" story

I'm shocked - shocked! - to learn that local TV news outlets sometimes lift stories from newspapers and then try to pass them off as "exclusives."

OK, enough sarcasm.

What truly surprised me was that News10 had the fortitude to admit it should not have used an "exclusive" graphic on a recent story out of Stockton; it later removed the word from the story on its Web site.

(Here's another peeve that I see occasionally on Sac TV news: Using the "breaking news" graphic when the news actually broke hours ago and a reporter is doing a standup in front of a mostly deserted crime scene. But that's a rant for another time....)

Anyway, News10 assistant news director Michael Langley, who pulls no punches in his blog postings and often talks about the station's decision-making, issued a mea culpa in his latest entry.

(Since News10's blogs do not provide linking to individual posts, I'm pasting Langley's post below. Langley's prose is in italics; the viewer's comments are in quotation marks.)

Blog On This...
I have always maintained that I will post within this space the good, the bad and the questionable. Today, we have the bad, as illustrated by Bryan who sent me an email (the title of this post is the subject line of his email) about a story on news10.net this weekend.

"I'd like to know your station's policy on the use of 'exclusive.' My guess is your staff strayed from that policy this weekend, on at least a couple of levels.

"I logged on to your web site to find an 'exclusive' label placed on a story about a Stockton mother who lost her young son to violence and was now moving out of town.

"What made this exclusive? I read several newspapers a day and saw this story on the front page of the Stockton Record newspaper. All you did was steal the idea and put it on TV. So how is that exclusive?"

Bryan, thank you for calling us on this. You're right. We called something exclusive that was not. We failed in a couple of ways in part because of our zeal for the story, the powerful emotion displayed by the mother we interviewed and my own failure to question that fact when it was reported to me.

"Exclusive" is one of those words in journalism that you cannot use lightly. It still means something to our audience and our misuse will erode a) the impact of truly exclusive content, and b) our credibility as a news organization.

Bryan goes on to add that putting the "exclusive" tag on this story exploited this woman's pain. We agreed as we discussed this very thing this morning in our editorial meeting and took all reference off the story.

Bryan, and all, though we do not have an ombudsman I thank you for writing me. We will do better next time.

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