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Texas Media followup
This is a follow up article to the 12/03 television story of abuse in the Dallas Texas area
03-Mar-03

Toughest stories are often the most rewarding

12/04/2002

BY JOHN McCAA / WFAA-TV

Perhaps the most difficult form of journalism is investigative work. It requires hours of research, sifting through countless records and phone conversations long before even a second of videotape is shot.

In addition, truly investigative reporting puts the investigative “team” on the line against sometimes powerful interests that would prefer that something stay hidden or quiet.

Our Valeri Williams, one of the country's premier broadcast investigative reporters, got another dose of this firsthand recently when she reported on allegations of child abuse within some congregations of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The people Valeri interviewed claimed their complaints were either ignored or not properly addressed by their church.

Behind the News
with John McCaa

John McCaaNews 8 anchor John McCaa has been with WFAA-TV (Ch. 8) since 1984. His weekly online column draws from current events and his experience to give viewers a glimpse into the world of TV news.

 

 

New this week

WFAAVideo: Watch Valeri Williams' report on the Jehovah's Witness allegations.

Read the story

 

 

More McCaa

John McCaa archive

Assembling such a report in an objective manner is a daunting task. Are the accusations true? Are the witnesses credible? Has there been a perception of a lack of response from church leaders to the complaints?

Through weeks of work and hours of interviews, Valeri concluded there was something to the complaints. She reported her findings on News 8.

Though investigative reporting is difficult, at least one of the rewards it brings is knowing that your work has made a difference.

The day after WFAA-TV aired Valeri’s report on our News 8 Update, she had received e-mails from several viewers, most of which praised the story.

Here are some excerpts:

“Thank you so much for writing this article. Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“This is a very sad story and is very true ... I was molested by my father but did not remember it until I was in therapy and my father was dying.”

“I have had one of my girls abused by a church elder, and they refused to do anything.”

“Thank you from Canada for your excellent coverage of this rampant sexual abuse problem inside the Watchtower organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

It would be incorrect to characterize all of the e-mail as positive. A few were highly critical of the story, calling it strongly biased:

“Any actual miscarriage of justice in the handling of child molestation cases within congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses has to be due to local mistakes and misjudgments. ... Jehovah’s Witnesses detest child abuse and abusers -- we take action to disfellowship guilty ones. Do other religions take such bold action? At least we try.”

“Personally I feel that your story was mismanaged. It was very biased. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the few religions that take action to protect people from being subjected to child molestation within the congregation.”

The story clearly struck a nerve with viewers.

The overwhelming response from people who could identify with the victims in the broadcast brought a sense of accomplishment to Valeri and others involved in the story.

They can truly say they made a difference.

 

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