Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Getting The Big Story Not Easy For Charlotte's Reporters When It Comes To CMPD
In the world of news and breaking stories, "if it bleeds it leads" and the only thing better than being first is having the exclusive story. That thinking set the stage for the 1974 hit movie starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon. The back story is at IMDB.
The remake of the 1934 classic centers around Hiddy Johnson a "crime beat" reporter in Chicago during the 1920's who had a reputation for doing whatever it took to get "big scoop".
Back in the day the Charlotte Observer was a power house of big scoop and "exclusive" stories. Now days the first story belongs to mainly the world of online and on air news, but still the "exclusive" goes to those who are willing to strain the limits of journalistic integrity and push the envelope past broadcast news into the realm of tabloid reporting.
Raw footage, live feed and of course gonzo reporting from operations like TMZ still garner the most attention. After all who doesn't like a good play by play car chase on live television?
But what limits are Charlotte's local media willing to push to get that exclusive or first to report news story?
Prior to Chief Monroe's arrival CMPD had an open door policy. The department had little choice since the Observer had an overnight crime reporter and photographer on staff. They pretty much camped out at the department's old headquarters on 4th Street, prior to the staggering decline in advertising revenue seen during the last decade. The city editor's desk was manned 24/7 as well and the crime beat was more than one reporter's only job.
Today's Observer is a ghost town. Steve Lyttle with the Observer works the news tidbits the old fashion way; via scanner and a network of police and fire wannabes supplemented with an occasional call to CFD's Rob Brisley or an email to CMPD's Robert Fey or Rosalyn Harrington. The result is a paragraph or two that shows up on the online edition often loaded with typos that are worked out over the course of the morning.
WBTV's Derrick Rose and "Cam Man" Ron Lee are one man bands that cover the overnight and early morning breaking news. Both do a top shelf job. Murder and mayhem are their lives but seldom do they get the kind of in depth exclusive report that WSOC has been getting from CMPD lately.
CMPD's revolving door Public Information Office and apparent "black listing" of certain reporters has effectively put CMPD into news blackout mode cutting most stations out of the loop.
Gone are the days of "anonymous sources" who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Chief Monroe's goon squad has let it be known they will not tolerate anyone speaking to the press.
Former WBTV reporter and one time NYPD Officer Rob Tufano has become an expert at delay, deny and minimize. Often seen in the background doing a classic "face palm" as Chief Monroe goes off script during CMPD pressers, when asked about Cedar Posts Tufano says he "ignores" the blog.
But report something not to the Chief's liking and you'll find yourself on the shit list as Fox News discovered after CMPD's Vicki Foster demanded face time with one reporter's boss. A meeting that was declined by Fox News Producers.
Cedar Posts has warned other reporters not to quote the blog or risk losing access to CMPD, and their response has been on more than one occasion, "what access?".
How far are you willing to go to get the story from CMPD? - One reporter dropped a story after she found herself on the other end of an unwanted overture. Nothing like having to take one for the team in order to get the story.
Who decided that WSOC would get a heads up on a staged SWAT Team raid last week? And then there is Tuesday's exclusive look at CMPD Officers training in preparation for DNC 2012.
What did they do or not do that earned them favored status?
A exclusive interview with Chief Monroe isn't really exclusive when all he does is read from a carefully crafted script and answers a few softball questions.
Which is exactly what WCNC's Sonja Gnatt delivered back in February of 2010. That interview is here.
But since then it seems Chief Monroe has found a new interest in WSOC's Erica Bryant.
Back in July WSOC ran a series of "exclusive" interviews with Chief Monroe. You can watch one of the segments with Erica Bryant here.
Yet WSOC's staff claim that CMPD is impossible to work with.
There is a break out from Main Stream Media when Paul Brown nailed an interview with Chief Monroe earlier this year. But again he doesn't play hard ball the Chief either.
Cedar's Take: Why is it that Rodney Monroe only does "exclusive" interviews with black journalists? There I said it, so go ahead and call me a racist. I admit I'm not as color blind as I thought.
Better yet why the wall of secrecy at CMPD, why has the once open police department become a citadel of information. A fortress of spin, deny and delay. Why are CMPD Officers afraid to talk to the press, the broadcast media and even bloggers? Even off the record?
It is not just about transparency it is about the basic rights of a free press. The right to unrestricted access. Ask any reporter if they trust Rob Tufano, ask yourself, do you? I didn't think so.
Cedar Posts understands that the police have always had a love/hate relationship with the press but lately it seems that it has become rather slanted to loving a few favorite news operations while hating all the others.
This is not openness, this is not a police department, this is a regime.