Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WSB-TV's Segment on HSUS: "Shoddy Reporting"?

A week and a half ago, WSB-TV Atlanta posted a story from their newscast investigating HSUS donations but removed both the text article and video shortly thereafter. Google's cache of the page was swiftly burned as well. Over the course of the following week, the video repeatedly popped up on a number of websites only to be quickly taken down due to "copyright violation". If in fact WSB-TV is truly concerned about copyright violations, why have they done nothing about the hundreds of other video segments from their news program posted on YouTube? Some of them have been up there for years and yet the HSUS video, whether it was posted on YouTube or elsewhere, was removed very shortly after posting each time it appeared. Finding the video before it was taken down became like a game of whack-a-mole.

This curious game led to speculation on the reasons behind the frantic action to snuff the report. Some have wondered if the possibility that the report calls into question the 501(c)3 status of the HSUS is the reason. Another guess came from a reader named Hillary who stated she works for HSUS. She left a comment on my blog which reads, in part:

WSB-TV has issued a correction and removed the story from its web site. Consider that this news station has lawyers to determine when and if they’re at fault for shoddy reporting. They don’t simply pull a story at the first sign of disagreement; in fact, they’re probably thrilled when a story gets as much attention as the one about HSUS has.

First, the "correction" referred to is a "clarification" which reads as follows:
We have a clarification to make about our story on the Humane Society of the United States. WSB-TV reported that HSUS spent almost $7 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina. HSUS says all $34 million of the funds raised in the wake of Katrina are tracked on its web site in a detailed report. If you would like to see their entire report, CLICK HERE.


This hardly sounds like a reporter backing off a story. To me, it sounds like the station wants us to know that they say X and HSUS says Y and if we want to check the figures for ourselves, we can visit the HSUS website. Fair enough.

Second, to imply that WSB-TV lawyers initiated a takedown of the report because it was total bunk is to assume that the station and the investigative reporter do not stand behind the story. Let's be clear: To my knowledge, there has been no statement from either Ms. Amanda Rosseter (the reporter) or WSB-TV indicating they do not stand behind the reporting in the HSUS piece. Therefore unless and until I hear otherwise, I absolutely defend the journalistic integrity of the piece and make no assumptions to the contrary. The fact is that we don't know for certain why the video keeps being removed from the net (claims of "copyright violation" notwithstanding) but to my mind there is no reason to assume it's due to "shoddy reporting".

The good news is that the video is available for download as a torrent here. (Simple explanation of what a torrent is, here.) And a transcript of the video is posted on PetPAC's site. Video posted for viewing here and here. There's a wmv available here.

4 comments:

Jess said...

Note that WSB issued a CLARIFICATION, not a RETRACTION. Not the same thing, and certainly not the same as removing a story and issuing a retraction due to falsehoods. If the story was completely false HSUS would have been shrieking about slander right and left. In the US, if you sue for slander or libel, it is the duty of the plaintiff to prove that they have been slandered. So how about it, HSUS? Have you filed suit yet? Or did you play the 'we know we can't win but we'll cost you millions in lawyer fees and court costs' card to get the story pulled?

jan said...

With the deep pockets donors have given to HSUS, they can wait out a lot of lawsuits unfortunately. I don't think they can stand up to millions of people who are learning the truth about them.

Pai said...

The entire situation is just weird. If the report was wrong, why not come out and clearly SAY so? Why is everything being kept so mysterious?!

Anonymous said...

The reporter for the WSB story was duped by a group called Center for Consumer Freedom, which is a front group for tobacco and agribusiness interests. That's why it was pulled; the story was a shoddy piece of journalism that slipped by the editors. CCF doesn't like the Humane Society. This post explains a lot about why: http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2009/05/achievements.html