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Your View: Viewers Question Coverage of Moberly High School Lunch Situation

Posted: Apr 12, 2013 10:01 PM by Nick Brennan & Scott Malone
Updated: May 7, 2013 9:56 PM

Rating: 0.0 (0 votes)

MOBERLY - In recent weeks, some viewers have said on Facebook that KOMU 8 News did not effectively cover the story of Moberly High School staff allegedly taking away students' lunches if the students owed lunch money to the school.

Specifically, viewers want to know why the story did not include an official statement from the school or the school district. Nick Barnett commented on Facebook, saying, "Did you ever think to talk to Moberly Schools before you blast this out like you are? I know they weren't available Friday, so call them Monday. Pretty hard to get a good story with just one side of it."

KOMU 8's reporter Matt Evans explained his attempts to get a comment from the school and the district. "I say ‘I'd love to talk to you, let's sit down, you're the principal, you're the leader of this school, I'm sure you have insight into this.' He says he couldn't talk until he got permission from the superintendent.

"I asked if I could call the superintendent. He said he would. He called her and texted her. Never heard back from her. He stayed around for probably another 20 or 30 minutes while I shot video of the school, and then left."

MU Journalism Management Professor Mike Dunn said he would have run the story even without a true comment from the school or the district. "I would've still run the story. It may be true when the principal says I can't comment until the superintendent tells me I can comment, but that seems to be an inefficient way of doing things.

"Again: if I were looking at management structure, people who report to me, I tell them, ‘You have responsibility, you can take charge of things in my absence up to a certain point."

Another viewer, Corey Harding, said KOMU 8's student staff left out a major aspect of the story, and called the report incomplete and exaggerated. "I know you've been taught in school that a good report touches on all the major facets of a particular issue.

"The district's reaction/comment/statement is a major facet of this story, yet it was left off so the story could run incompletely. Not only is this sensationalism, it's crap reporting."

MU Journalism Professor Charles Davis explained the amount of time to wait for a statement from the school or the district truly depends on the story. "Clearly, this is not Watergate. This is a lunch dust-up in Moberly with the schools, so I'm not going to hold the story very long on a non-response.

"And I think the station probably made the right call by going on the air if the guy was pretty adamant about refusing to go on. If this story were about a waste, fraud, abuse, corruption and it started moving up the scale of severity then the further that moves up the scale, the longer you're going to wait."

"If [the school or the district] would have talked to us, the story could have been crafted in a different way," Evans said. "But he refused to. So I gave them as much time and benefit of the doubt as I could, and I even included the letter that we got from a viewer, from the school's point of view.

"So even if the school didn't talk to us, I still got that side. Even if it wasn't directly from the district, it was from a parent in that email that they sent out. So I used that in both my on-air story and my web version.

Dunn said he would like to give the school a chance to make a statement in a follow-up story, and to provide an explanation for parents and viewers.. "I know they said that this [incident] is not going to happen again. But give me an explanation. What did you put into place that means that it won't reoccur? And I would give the principal a chance to do that, or the superintendent. Whichever one is willing to speak on the record."

What do you think? Do you think KOMU accurately covered the Moberly school lunch incident? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. Then watch Friday nights at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. as we report "Your View" of the news.

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