In an unusual mea culpa on in its Web site, WGCL-TV (CBS Atlanta) News Director Steve Schwaid wrote a sincere apology for airing emotional footage Tuesday night of a Cobb County woman who did not know her husband has been accused of a homicide until their cameras showed up.
The story aired Tuesday during the 11 p.m. newscast.
There was no disciplinary action taken. After it aired, Schwaid said in a phone interview today that he got some negative reaction from the public. “We don’t run certain 911 tapes. We don’t show body bags or pools of blood,” he said. After the fact, “I was uncomfortable with the video.” He had a staff meeting yesterday and they talked about it as a “learning tool” for future stories.
Here’s the apology in full:
Writing apologies is one of the hardest notes to write. But clearly in this case we owe you, our viewers of CBS Atlanta and users of CBSAtlanta.com, an apology.
Last night we aired a story about a local man charged with murdering another man in Connecticut. Connecticut authorities arrested 44-year-old Lishan Wang on Monday. Wang is from Cobb County and is accused of shooting and killing a Yale University doctor.
Since this was also a local story, we went to Wang’s Cobb County home to see if we could learn what lead up to the alleged shooting. When we got there, a woman opened the door and we explained the story we were working on. It turns out the woman who opened the door was Wang’s wife. She didn’t know her husband had been arrested and charged with a crime. No one had told her that her husband was in jail in Connecticut on murder charges. We broke the news to her. It’s not something we want to do.
Wang’s wife then invited us into her home, but it’s what happened next that that I found the most offensive and horrifying. While we were in the home talking with her and shooting video, Wang’s wife fell to the floor hysterically crying. If you saw our newscast last night or our website earlier today, you saw this horrible video.
There was no reason for us to air or put that video on the Web. No one needed to see those moments in her life. I received several emails and calls complaining about what we did.
To those of you who wrote or called, thank you. We understand your anger and frustration with what we did. You’re right. This is not the way we set out to conduct ourselves every day. We appreciate your reaction and want you to know we knew the minute this story went on the air that we had made a terrible mistake in judgment.
It was wrong. We were wrong and I apologize. We have discussed it internally and will continue to do so. We will also use this video in future training sessions with our staff to show what we should NOT put on television.
I can offer no excuse but only hope you will accept our apologies.