COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News broke into NBC's Nightly News Nov. 5 to air a live press conference with Ryan Ferguson's family and attorney. Some viewers sent emails to the station calling the decision "poor judgement." In this week's Your View, we take a closer look at why KOMU 8 News made the decision to air the live press conference.
The Ryan Ferguson case has been in the news for more than ten years. KOMU 8 News has continually covered the case as new details have surfaced. The coverage has included: the murder of Kent Heitholt, the arrest of suspects, the trial of Ryan Ferguson, several appeals, the Ferguson family's decision to hire a new attorney, two key witnesses retracting their testimonies, all the way up to the state attorney general's decision not to retry Ferguson.
KOMU 8 News' decision to break into NBC Nightly News sparked comments from viewers claiming the press conference was not newsworthy.
Viewer Bill Helvey emailed saying, "I can't believe KOMU stopped national news feed for local news conference on the Ferguson news conference. I'm sure it is important for some, but for most of us, the national news is precedent over the Ferguson issue. It's poor judgment for the station to think that this issue is more important than national issues."
The station's news director, Stacey Woelfel, said the story was an important development in a case that shed insight into the criminal justice system.
"Our mission, first and foremost, is to do local news and it was a chance to deliver news in a way where people could see it live, see it in it's entirety. So, no doubt about it, it was worth it," Woelfel said.
Another viewer, Ron Kennedy, called into the KOMU 8 News Your View hotline to say the content was over-reported. "You told us all about at the 5 o'clock news and you are probably going to tell us all about it at the 6 o'clock news."
Woelfel's responsed to Kennedy's call and said the content of a live conference can not be recreated by in a newscast. "What was on at five and what was on at six was put together during the course of the day, so recorded material, none of that would've served bringing the live comments from Ferguson's father and his lawyer about what had happened that day," Woelfel said.
Viewer Mary Williams emailed KOMU 8 News after the press conference and said, "How much did he pay you to break in on NBC news and do you do this if a person has NO money .I don't think so. Money talks I did not like what you did tonight, when I have to pay to watch you and I live 70 miles from you."
Viewer Raoul Velte said the national news outweighed the local news and the content could have waited to be discussed during the station's regular news hours.
"I was watching the NBC news during a National Election, and you in your infinite wisdom, cut in with a miss on a news conference about the Ferguson murder case. There is no doubt about the importance of the news but it does not reach the level of an emergency that needs to be broadcast live at the expense of missing very important national news."
Woelfel said the news conference brought light to facts in the case and, in our continued coverage, it was well worth it to cut out of national news.
"I think this was an important milestone in the coverage. You couldn't cover everything that's happened till now and not cover this so, again, a lot of places to go get that national news besides just from NBC Nightly News. Really no place else to go to get it in the way we were able to bring it"