Here’s the rest, excerpted at length because it really is something:
Perhaps television media just doesn’t understand what real journalism is. The job of a journalist is to find out what really happened. Inexperienced reporters will often use anonymous sources because they’re not able to convince the sources that the information they have is important. We think that’s just lazy. A good reporter can get someone to go on record, if indeed there is something factual there.
If there is a story to be told about legitimate allegations against any of our county officials, you can be sure you’ll be able to read the facts in our news pages. And we promise our readers that we’ll be fair with the story and present both sides because after all, we have a lot more than 30 seconds to tell the story.
Those are fighting words, and staffers at WCHS took to Twitter Thursday to defend themselves. For her part, Cart said she was confident in her reporting. And she took her own shot at the Daily News: “[T]hey clearly didn’t go to journalism school and don’t read real newspapers. I trust my sources and the story needs to be told,” she tweeted. By the end of the day, she appeared tired of the argument, tweeting, “For the record regarding Mingo story, We don’t report rumors, my sources are involved in the investigation. I stand by my story. #endofstory.”
I caught up by phone Thursday with Matt Snyder, the news director for WCHS, and Kennie Bass, a reporter for the station. Unsurprisingly, they defended their station’s work and were upset about the editorial.
“I was disappointed that another news organization, rather than tending to its own business and working hard and working sources and pounding the street and getting a story, criticized someone else without really having any basis in fact,” Bass said. “They threw out some pretty reckless accusations about rumor and sloppy reporting.”
Bass shared some of the history of Mingo County and said he took umbrage at his news crew being considered outsiders. He said he had spent 10 summers with relatives who live near Mingo County and married a woman from the area.
He also offered some local color about the place that I can’t resist including here: “It’s just small town politics in southern West Virginia where a quart of whiskey and a firm handshake will get you a vote.”
As for the use of anonymous sources, Snyder said, the station doesn’t have a set policy, but makes decisions on a case-by-case basis underpinned by trust in his reporters and trust in their sources. Bass told me the station rarely if ever goes with one source, and “everything gets corroborated.”
Snyder also told me WCHS reporters had been hearing about potential misdeeds in Mingo County for a long time, but—before the reporting that led to the May 20 segment—hadn’t been able to confirm anything, even on background with sources they’d known for years. The station didn’t compromise its credibility in a race to be first, he insisted.
Later Thursday night, Snyder sent me an email.
“Our reporter did the work, and confirmed the information through multiple sources directly involved in the investigation; we stand behind her story,” he wrote. “But again, it was not about being first. We were thorough; we waited until we were comfortable with our facts and then made the editorial decision to move forward.”
Byers, the regional editor, told me the editorial was about the newspaper taking a stand and speaking for the community. Because the Daily News had been looking into reports of an investigation and hadn’t come up with anything it felt it could report, some at the paper couldn’t believe it when they heard they might get scooped by a TV station almost two hours away.
“Their story came out and I thought, ‘Well that’s nothing,’” Byers said. “There were no facts there.” The station’s report didn’t give identifiers to its unnamed sources, such as whether they were in law enforcement or otherwise, he noted. And the broadcast’s language about the scope of the investigation, and the severity of the alleged wrongdoing, was vague.