Since September 10th when the undercover video at ACORN was released I, and my coworkers, have taken many calls, emails and social media comments on the story.  With confidence I can say 90% of the comments were nasty and mean.  Only a few times did I see an email, direct Twitter message, or phone call that didn’t make me brace myself for another lashing.  Those few comments were actually questions instead of accusation.  They were questions of “how is a national story like ACORN covered locally?” and “would the news investigators go in undercover at local ACORN offices?”  I was allowed to actually answer these questions which lead to conversations that either satisfied the viewer or resulted in the viewer leaving a logical comment pleased or displeased comment.


I say viewers but I honestly don’t think every person who contacted the station has watched a CBS4 News newscast.  It seemed many who called or emailed had joined a chain list of sorts and just auto-dialed or auto-emailed without knowing anything of the station.  I and the station were automatically lumped in generic and degrading media classifications.  I admit I don’t have all the answers, but I will answer what I can when I am treated civilly.


When the ACORN story broke on Thursday CBS4 News at 6:30 reported not only the undercover footage, but also that 11 former ACORN employees were turned in on charges of voter registration fraud in Florida.  It was reported with the rest of the national news since it didn’t have a local connection.  The situation was handled like any other national story where the station doesn’t have access to, or the right to video or sources.  This is when we look to CBS national news to see what if anything is done by CBS which would give us the right to the resources.


I was told by many the video was available on Web sites so the station could easily use it.  That is correct, but how is it responsible journalism for the station to air the undercover footage when none of us in the newsroom know every part of that video?  None of us know what has or hasn’t been edited.  None of us know the specifics and legalities about the video.


Next the argument was that the station uses video from the Internet all the time, so this shouldn’t be different.  It is true that the station will occasionally use video from the Internet, but that video is normally used to add illustration the story, it isn’t the story.  The times that the Internet video is the story is when the video is of the water cooler variety, like the JK Wedding Entrance Dance.  In those cases only a few second of the video is used for entertainment value.  The video is never someone else’s undercover video.


I learned long ago, before I took a career in journalism that I and the media outlet will never satisfy everyone.  I believe in journalistic integrity, fact checking, source verification, transparency and story telling.  Even with all of this, it’s never enough for someone, or entire groups of people. 


It would be irresponsible journalism for the station to just take these reports and run with the information blindly, without hesitation and without question.  The day the information came out, the producers made the best decision possible, report what was happening and then move onto the next national story.  The ACORN story is not a lead in Denver.


Of course it’s been demanded by many that the station does its own report on local ACORN.  From a news standpoint the story would be a reaction story since it’s not connected to Colorado.  It sill would not be the “flog them” cry of the many who of contacted the station. 


This of course leads to the next demand of send in the station’s undercover investigative team to prove local scandal.  This may be a possibility.  However, this wouldn’t be anything that would ever be discussed with me.  This would be arranged in closed door meetings where I would only find out about it when it was time to air anything.  That’s the whole point of an undercover investigative team, to do it in secret with as few as possible involved in the procedure.  Such an investigation could go either way.  Those who called in anger don’t want to hear this, but there is always the possibility that any such under cover operation wouldn’t turn up any scandal or any wrong doing at all at the local ACORN offices.

Please, I encourage your comments and thoughts on this.