In the heat of competition, mistakes are made and it appears that is what happened to KODE and KSNF Monday when they aired a report saying that a Webb City police officer was being investigated for child abuse. That report was even cited positively in this blog. I wrote "KODE continued its winning streak with a report on a child abuse investigation centered on a Webb City police officer, also covered on KSNF, while KSNF picked up Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmonson's filing of a lawsuit against Tyson and other poultry companies." I was wrong in praising the Webb City story. The two stations jumped the gun on this one.
They had to retract the story, noting that Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson was not going to file any charges.
The question now is: Should the story have run in the first place? Once the name of the officer was broadcast, his reputation was damaged, no doubt about it. When the stations report later that no charges are going to be brought, that doesn't do much to mitigate the harm. First, not everyone who watched the first report saw the second one. Second, there will always be people who think he did it.
A Webb City police officer has been labeled a child abuser now, even though there have never been any charges filed against him.
In hindsight, it is easy to see the two stations should have waited until charges were filed before reporting the story. Perhaps they could have noted that an investigation was being conducted into the possibility that a Webb City police officer abused his child, without naming the officer. Of course, that would have put every Webb City police officer with children under suspicion.
I would hope that the news director for the two stations used this opportunity to review guidelines over when a story should run. If a similar situation arises in the future, the stations should either wait until charges are filed or make absolutely sure they have the story pinned down.
This story should never have run.