Applying Murphy’s law

"I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for the human trafficking allegation. Let's chat..."

A reporter at WXIA raised a question that I’d asked myself while driving home Monday night.

“You went into — the lobby?  Camera rolling?  Did you — ?”

Did I call the WXIA lawyer first?  Actually, no.  It went like this:

We were at a DeKalb County day care center.  The administrator had been indicted by a federal grand jury for human trafficking.  I wanted to talk to her.  I suspected she might not want to chat with a TV reporter.

From outside, I called the facility.  A woman answered, and stammered “who’s this?  She’s not here” when I asked for the suspect.  It had the whiff of BS, confirmed when a parent told us “oh yeah — she’s in there.”  Most parents hadn’t heard about the allegation until they saw us.

Photog Tyson Paul and I pondered our options.  There’s weren’t many.  The center was a brick building.  The administrator / human trafficking suspect wasn’t coming out.

“We could just go in, roll on it and see what happens.”

“Let’s do it.”

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done this:  Enter a public business, photog in tow, rolling tape.  But I flashed back to guidelines I’d gotten over the years.  “You have to have a legitimate news interest.  The building has to be open to the public.  You can’t go past the public area of the business.  If they tell you to leave, you must leave.  But you can leave slowly. You can ask questions as you leave.”

Then I flashed back to numerous news stories I’d observed, mostly on WAGA and WGCL.  The Restaurant Report Card flashed strongly in my mind.  “If Adam Murphy can bust into a restaurant with a health score infraction, I can go into a day care where the administrator is charged with human trafficking.”  Done.  We went in.

The administrator didn’t react well to the friendly introduction I’d uttered upon entry.  “This is private property.  Please get out.”  We backed toward the door.

“May I ask you a question first?” I said, as I backpedaled.

“Please leave now.”  Her voice got louder.

“I’d like to ask you something –” I intended to offer a conversation off-camera.  She wasn’t having it.

“Please leave NOW!” she screamed.  We exited.

We waited outside in the street for the next ninety minutes.   During that time, she told patrons of the day care that she’d been charged with a crime; it was just allegations; she was innocent.  “Wish she’d have told me that,” I told a day care customer who’d related her explanation to me outside.

By the time we returned Tuesday, the administrator was gone.  The state had ordered her to vacate.  A replacement was in her office.  I entered, sans camera.  I introduced myself.

“No.  I’m not talking you you.  Please leave now,” said the replacement.    A bit puzzled, I left immediately.  I never got the indicted woman’s story, except second-hand, through customers.

She had plenty of opportunity.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Couple Charged With Trafficking Woman…“, posted with vodpod

If you watched the story, you may notice a certain Addams Family quality to the graphics.  Although Tyson Paul had created perfectly lovely graphics in WXIA’s Avid system, he learned after they aired that they were “corrupt.”  It happens.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

9 thoughts on “Applying Murphy’s law

  1. Legal aide

    Rule number one of the attorney-client privilege is to keep the conversations between counsel and counseled. The legal seminars you refer to are indeed privileged conversations between you and everybody in attendance as the clients and the attorneys giving the advice. By revealing that such conversations happened, leave alone their content, you have violated, and broken, such privilege not just for yourself but for everybody who participated in the discussions. With the privilege gone you might have open the door for litigation that might drag you, your station, your former colleagues and employer along for the ride. Your insight into the ins and outs of broadcast news are greatly appreciated but the story could have been written leaving out the details of the seminars protecting yourself and everybody else.

    Reply
  2. live apt fire Post author

    I’ve heard this admonishment before — that we shouldn’t acknowledge legal tips from attorneys. “This conversation never happened” kind of cloak-and-dagger stuff.

    Since I’ve changed employers, and that conversation took place with the attorney for a previous employer, I surmise I’m no longer the client of that attorney. I’ve not been employed with them for more than two years. Were a suit to arise, it seems the conversation with that attorney would be irrelevant (unless the suit involved a different story that was more than two years old and produced at the previous workplace). Agree?

    Reply
    1. Legal aide

      I don’t believe there is a statue of limitation to the attorney-client privilege. Besides, you have made the conversation with the attorney relevant since you mention it as part of your thinking process to enter the building and confront the lady. My point is that by mentioning such conversations, you expose yourself, and potentially others, to extra, unnecessary, legal scrutiny. You, made the point about the merits of your efforts in pursuing the interview, you even illustrated the ongoing debate about granting access to the media to public places in a story about the cafeteria at UGA. Your reasoning to do what you did is sound and valid, but I would like to remind you that your blog has a broad audience so it might be wise for yours, and your colleagues sake, to be careful with some of the details you write.

      Reply
  3. Jim

    Wow…Doug, I guess ol’ legal aid told you:-)
    So there…

    Sounds more like they’re afraid of people learning from one another, since that tends to disrupt the revenue stream from these seminars.

    Reply
  4. scott hedeen

    i need to figure out how to get a rec feed of google earth streams. that was cool. as for the “moment” in question? we all had that talk at 11 alive at one time.. and it was something that had to be signed off on by a manager before even an attempt was made…. i had trouble even getting permission to go into a gated community for a feature piece!

    Reply

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