The next news director at WGCL will probably get plenty of friendly advice. We lead the charge with this bit of wisdom: Let your investigative reporters investigate. Let your general assignment staff cover the news du jour.
This mini-rant comes after watching Wendy Saltzman, identified on-air and on WGCL’s web site as an investigative reporter, covering a routine day-of story Wednesday. Saltzman was live in Cherokee County at 6pm, tossing to a package about a piece of surveillance tape showing men in an act of thievery. In other words, it was nothing special. Certainly nothing “investigative,” except for the fact that this was a story about a police investigation. It wasn’t even exclusive. WSB had the same story, buried in its 5pm news.
We’ve seen Saltzman’s investigative work. It ain’t half bad. The stories are slickly produced. The problem: There are too many of them. Genuine investigative reporting takes time.
WGCL has to allow its investigative reporters to fail once in a while. Sometimes, something that appears to be a story actually isn’t. That’s what requires investigation. There’s no guarantee. The upside is that the payoff is truly special— an original revelation, uncovered and vetted by the muscle of a major market TV station. It’s one of the reasons people actually watch TV news, and one of the few reasons people with half a brain watch.
But the station has to leave them alone and let them investigate.
If the new news director at WGCL uses the station’s investigative reporters correctly, they would appear on TV a few dozen times per year at most. He would protect Saltzman from his middle-level managers in the newsroom, who see Saltzman at her desk, rub their hands in glee and see her as just another resource.
If there’s a triple murder at the courthouse or a tornado downtown, then yes: Dislodge your investigative reporter and put her on the genuinely big story. But not on nickel-and-dime crapola like a garden-variety surveillance tape story.