I'm Just Sayin'
Random Thoughts from a Random Guy

It’s My Job…

For those of you who don’t know, I am a morning news anchor and reporter at a television station in southern Illinois. It’s a position I’ve held here for more than 7 years, and I’ve worked in three other television newsrooms since June 1996.  I’ve been an on air reporter since November 1997.

Through the years, I’ve developed thick skin.  You have to in this line of work or you won’t survive.  But today a viewer said something about me via Facebook that not only hurt my feelings, but made me feel compelled to write this post.

Here’s the skinny:  We got a call this morning about a bad accident in a town about an hour away.  Since it was early, there were no other reporters or photographers in the newsroom yet, so I grabbed a camera and headed to the scene.  For starters, when I got there, I had to walk about a half mile and didn’t even reach the scene when I was asked by police to turn around and walk back because they didn’t feel the scene was secure for journalists.  Mind you the road was wet and partially snow covered and I’m trudging along with a camera and tripod in my dress shoes.  (My bad for forgetting my boots today)  So as I was walking back, another officer gave me a lift to my station vehicle.  He assured me he’d escort me back when it was safe.  He did.

Once I got back, I was still about a quarter mile from the actually crash.  But I could tell it was bad.  Two semis and a mini van.  I shot some video and took a couple of pictures with my iPhone.  Eventually we (myself and the two competing TV stations) were allowed closer to the scene.  We all snapped pics with our phones and emailed them to newsrooms and uploaded them to Facebook.

I’m not going to post the pics here out of respect to the family and because I was taking them for the station’s Facebook page and this is my personal blog.  One picture told the story, half of the van was under one of the semis and the other half was in the road.  The license plate wasn’t even visible.  There were no identifying marks on the van.  Actually I’m not even 100% sure it was a van it was that mangled.  No blood, no body parts, no body bags.  Nothing.

The pictures posted created a fire storm between people thanking us for the coverage and those who thought the photos were in bad taste.  The person who really bothered said I was not ethical and quoted the Don Henley song “Dirty Laundry” about the “bubble headed bleach blond…”

That’s where I take offense.  In my 14 years in this business I’ve prided myself on being ethical and carefully considering other people’s feelings.  I still believe the photos I posted were not offensive and did not show anything that would identify the victims before their next of kin is notified.

The comment and other implied that I’m some heartless, gutless soul who doesn’t care about the people I report about and to.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I have shed countless tears behind the scenes on stories I’ve done.  I’ve prayed for the families left behind after a devastating loss.  I’ve even attended funeral services as Kevin Hunsperger the person, not Kevin Hunsperger the journalist.

It’s ironic too, because a couple of months ago people were criticizing me for trying to find a candy cane factory in the area so I could do a feature on that for Christmas.  The news isn’t always sunshine and lollipops.  It’s my job to report the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Insult the way I anchor.  I know I have room for improvement, but don’t question my ethics.

I have probably crossed a line in posting this, but I really wanted to get this off my chest and explain I don’t lack ethics and if you think otherwise, call me at the station.  I’ve extended this invitation to the man who questioned me today, but he has not taken me up on it.

Thanks for reading.


3 Responses to “It’s My Job…”

  1. Hey Kev– I know the feeling all too well. It’s always a sad situation and there’s nothing we can do to make it better. People lash out because we are there. Half our viewers want to know and want to see with their own eyes what happened. The other half think it’s disrespectful. We can’t please everyone. When there’s a tragedy, we just have to do our jobs. There was a doctor in the Baltimore area that was recently shot after delivering bad news to a family. It doesn’t matter if we’re reporters or doctors. We intended to help. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we don’t. But we don’t have a chance to make things better if we don’t try. –Lindsey Mastis

  2. I was so mad this morning when I saw the posts on the Facebook page. I wrote, and then deleted, several scathing comments to those who found you unethical or who thought the pictures should be removed out of respect. I wrote them because I felt you should be defended and that I thought you were right, but I ultimately deleted them prior to post because of MY job and my position as the public information officer. Also, as much as I agreed with what you did, I was reminded of an old adage my gram used to say about arguing with idiots, and how it quickly becomes hard to tell the difference between who is who….

  3. Kevin — I saw your pics…and unfortunately these are the times now. People want to see this kind of stuff — if they didn’t, we all know the ratings would drop off. I think a lot of viewers forget that we are real people, with years of training on how to turn our emotions off.

    Also — you remember that really bad wreck on 57 a few years ago, that I sent Shawn to and we were the only station that had that exclusive video? Remember how much we played that up, showed that video over and over? I’m sure people back then complained too but the popularity of the Internet now makes it easier for them to sound off.

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