Local News Watch: CBS Atlanta issues an apology

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We often complain about the way local news stations fixate  on the sensational and tawdry. So it was remarkable to see this heartfelt and sincere apology that CBS Atlanta Director of News and Digital Content Steve Schwaid posted on the station’s website.

On Tuesday, CBS Atlanta reporters had gone to the Cobb County home of Lishan Wang, who had been arrested as a suspect in the killing of a Yale doctor. As it turned out, Wang’s wife learned the news from the reporters, and the station aired footage of her emotional reaction.

In a note posted yesterday, Schwaid wrote:

Writing apologies is one of the hardest notes to write. But clearly in this case we owe you, our viewers of CBS Atlanta and users of CBSAtlanta.com, an apology…

He describes the news team’s arrival at Wang’s home and the response of his wife, who invited the news crew into her house. Then he goes on to write:

It’s what happened next that that I found the most offensive and horrifying. While we were in the home talking with her and shooting video, Wang’s wife fell to the floor hysterically crying. If you saw our newscast last night or our website earlier today, you saw this horrible video. There was no reason for us to air or put that video on the Web. No one needed to see those moments in her life.

 

Schwaid concludes his note by writing:

We knew the minute this story went on the air that we had made a terrible mistake in judgment. It was wrong. We were wrong and I apologize. We have discussed it internally and will continue to do so. We will also use this video in future training sessions with our staff to show what we should NOT put on television. I can offer no excuse but only hope you will accept our apologies.

You can read his full note here.

Yes, the station erred terribly in deciding to air the footage, but in quickly admitting fault and issuing an apology, they did something right. Maybe that footage should be used in training sessions with all local stations.

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