Posted by Ace Reporter on October 24, 2012 at 10:19:49:
For TV anchor, Brookfield shooting blended personal, professional
Oct. 23, 2012
Like pointillist paintings, events that make no sense up close become clearer the farther away you are from them.
And so breaking television news reporting of Sunday's shooting at Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield that left three dead - four including the gunman, who took his own life - was like a patchwork mosaic assembled while we watched.
Anyone who turned away from the Packers game to follow the live coverage saw a mix of facts and speculation.
At one point, WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) reported 10 people were hurt; another time WISN-TV (Channel 12) said the victims were treated for noncritical injuries. There were rumors the shooter used a machine gun, was still at large and had fled into the nearby Brookfield Square mall. Descriptions of the subject changed from black to "ethnic," and there were rumors of an explosive device in the building.
Days later, the who, what, where and when were tragically clear. The why, of course, never will be.
For most people, Sunday meant sleeping late, yard work, brunch or reading the paper while waiting for the game to begin.
That included those working in local newsrooms. Like all of us, they were unprepared for what occurred, though after the shooting this summer at the Sikh temple we all should know better.
WITI-TV (Channel 6) appeared to have been the first to break in live with the report, before the start of the Packers game. WISN-TV's Abe Lubetkin is believed to have been the first on the scene, filing a report on Twitter at 12:02 p.m. WTMJ-TV was the first to switch to continuous coverage, followed by WISN-TV. WITI aired updates during commercial breaks in the Packers game and went live afterward. WDJT-TV (Channel 58) interrupted out-of-market football with occasional bulletins.
Reporters on the scene included WTMJ-TV weekday morning anchor Susan Kim, looking like she had just rolled out of bed.
"Makeup and hair were the last things I was thinking of," said Kim.
She had been at home wearing "sweats and stuff getting ready to watch the Packer game" when she saw scanner reports about a shooting at the spa. She threw on jeans and called the station to say she was going to the scene to join reporter Todd Hicks.
But she was not just another team player jumping into the fray on her day off.
As she noted on the air, Kim frequented the salon and knew the woman killed in the attack by her husband.
At 1:30 p.m., a visibly shaken Kim reported that the woman - Zina Haughton - had been her stylist for a year and a half, and she provided an emotionally personal description of what she knew about the victim without losing her composure.
"The only time I felt almost out of control" was after learning the stylist died after studio anchors announced it on the air.
"And though I talked about her off and on during the day," Kim said, that was when "the reality of the situation began to hit me."
Did she ever think her client-stylist relationship disqualified her from reporting objectively on the story?
"Actually, no," said Kim "When you're a journalist you think about the story. When you're a person you think about the people." This "was the culmination of those two things together."
Kim used her phone to solicit information on Facebook and learned that the sister of one of her followers was shot.
"I tracked her down via Facebook and we talked. She wanted her sister's identity kept private. I told her the most important thing for me was to respect her family, and she told me clearly what I could say and what she was willing to release at that time."
Reporters regularly use social media to find sources and to advance stories, but without a network of followers - Kim has 8,000 on Twitter and 3,500 on Facebook - queries can get lost in the ether.
"You have to have a connection with people. It's something you have to develop," Kim said. "The goal is not to get stories, but to get to know viewers and see what they're talking about. It all came together" that day.
Kim made sure her reporting was about the victims and not about herself.
"But I felt I could offer insight at a time when we were still trying to get information that would add depth to the story," she said. "As a reporter, if I had come across somebody at the scene" who had this information, "I would interview that person. As a journalist, you don't want to be the story. This was about the community and the people inside the salon and Zina's (daughters). That was the most important thing to convey.
"I did not want it to seem that it was anything but a tragedy for the community."
As I wrote on my blog earlier this week , Sunday's Packers game on WITI had six times more viewers than the three other local stations combined, including shooting coverage on WISN-TV and WTMJ-TV.
The Packers game averaged a 43.3 rating - or about 394,000 households.
About 75,000 fewer homes tuned in to Monday's foreign policy debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama on the three local stations that carried the debate than tuned in to last week's town hall debate. About 218,000 households tuned in Monday night. Last Thursday's debate averaged 293,000 viewers. Monday's baseball playoff game on WITI attracted about 51,000 viewers.
I mistakenly reported the "Frontline" episode on climate change with comments from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) aired on PBS on Monday. The episode, "Climate of Doubt," actually aired Tuesday night. It will repeat at 2 a.m. Saturday on WMVS-TV (Channel 10).
Robert Feder, media columnist for Time Out Chicago, reports that WGN-AM afternoon host John Williams is leaving at the end of the year to work exclusively for WCCO-AM in Minneapolis. Williams hosts a show from a Chicago studio that airs on WCCO following his WGN shift.
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