This I Believe

Paul - Keller, Texas
Entered on April 4, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

I believe in the power of local television news

I’ve been in the local television news business for 20 years, and although I’m not a journalist, I have spent most of my career in local TV newsrooms working alongside news directors, newscast producers, assignment editors, photographers, and reporters. Because of that close working relationship, I have a great deal of respect for what they do.

Over the years, local TV news has taken its lumps– some deservedly so, some not. But it’s been my experience that, day in and day out, the quality of local news coverage has been quite good.

In the late 80s at WDSU-TV in New Orleans, the station got a call from a woman complaining that people were selling crack cocaine in broad daylight on her residential street. WDSU used a hidden camera to record hundreds of drug transactions all over the city and showed it on the news, shocking the city into action.

In the early 1990s, I got my legally-parked car towed away on Ft Myers Beach, Florida and the towing company would only release the car if I paid $150 in cash. I was furious. I told one of WINK-TV’s reporters about it. Turns out the towing truck company was illegally towing cars for years, and was not reporting the income to the IRS. The city put the towing company out of business.

In the late 90s in Orlando, all of the local TV stations were doing ‘crime-driven’ news. When WESH-TV decided it wanted to do local news that was not crime-driven, news that focused on issues important to people, the local TV news writer said that WESH was doing “journalism, not nonsense” which got the attention of a New York Times writer. He wrote a New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story praising what WESH was doing.

And on March the first, the Nexstar Broadcasting station in Dothan, Alabama, interrupted normal programming to report a tornado was spotted on the ground. WDHN Chief Meteorologist, Greg Dee warned viewers in Enterprise, Alabama to take cover immediately. In Enterprise, a grandmother and her grandkids heeded the warning and retreated to a hallway just as the tornado tore the roof off her house, totally destroying the living room where they were just sitting. Days later, that grandmother and her grandkids hugged Greg Dee and tearfully thanked him for his warnings that saved their lives. You might remember the story about that tornado–it destroyed the high school across the street, killing 8 students there.

Local television news has the power to expose scams, uncover crimes, and come right into your living rooms to get you up and out of the way of a tornado right outside your door that you didn’t even know was there.

The power of local television news, this I believe.