Reporters waste a lot of time. It drives them crazy. It’s also part of the job. You get a hot tip. You start asking questions. A story emerges. You start committing time and resources.
This is especially true for investigative reporters. Their stories require more digging. Their sources probably have axes to grind, requiring extra caution. Sometimes, the stories crash and burn in the end. In one case, the crash is rather amusing. Dale Russell writes about it in his blog.
The WAGA investigative reporter thought he’d found a story: The VA provided a widow a flag for the casket of her military-veteran husband. But upon receiving the flag, the family saw a “Made in China” tag. This riled the family, who contacted Russell.
This resulted in several days worth of phone calls, FOIA requests, footage and interviews. Russell was about to fly to Ohio to shoot pictures of the flag and the “Made in China” tag. Then this:
She says “you didn’t get my message.” Feel the bottom of my stomach open up; heartburn soon to follow.
“No.” Widow informs me that the night before, she unfolded the flag for her family, and couldn’t find the tag. But, she did find a “Made in America” tag. In fact, made in Alabama by disabled workers.
Stomach unleashes torrent; TUMS soon to follow.
Oops. Russell had found a law that says the VA must provide American-made flags for deceased veterans. No doubt, many flag-waving Americans would have been horrified to learn our government had provided a Chinese-made copy of Old Glory for a dead veteran.
To us, the whole premise sounded a little weak to begin with. But we can’t deny it may have been a crowd-pleaser.
But it’s instructive. It helps explain why WAGA’s I-Team reporters make such infrequent appearances on TV. The stories they produce take a bunch of legwork. And they chase occasional phantoms like this one.