Station takes heat for broadcasting details
Aspen Public Radio, which broke the news that a Woody Creek resident is the subject of a child pornography investigation, received several complaints about graphic details that were included in Wednesday morning’s broadcast.Information detailing what Willard Bill McDonough allegedly told a person he thought was a 13-year-old girl was broadcast just before 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. The news report was broadcast again around 9 a.m., this time with the case’s graphic nature toned down.Brent Gardner-Smith, the station’s executive director, said the station received seven calls and two e-mails yesterday complaining about the original report. The reporter reading the story warned listeners of its graphic nature about three minutes into the report.”We almost always write two different versions of every story and alternate them so the middle broadcast is always different,” Gardner-Smith said.Before the 9 a.m. broadcast, he said he received two voice messages saying the report offered “too much detail and that we were going on too long with it.” He said this was a factor in the decision to tone down the graphic details. But the story was going to be trimmed anyway to make room for another news report, he said.Gardner-Smith, a longtime Aspen journalist, defended the original report.”I worked closely with [the reporter] on the piece,” he said. “I thought it was very important that if we were going to broadcast a federal investigation about a citizen in this community, that we should not do it lightly.”He also said the station wanted to “give our listeners a complete understanding of the investigation so they did not think we were lightly associating child pornography with a well-known citizen.”Asked if he thought the complaints were warranted, Gardner-Smith said, “In hindsight, we could have perhaps found a better balance. It’s a little tougher in the radio – it jumps out at you and I think it was startling to people.”We consider ourselves a serious news department. Clearly it was a scoop. The story would have been shocking without the details in many ways. But what we put out was a relatively mild sharing of what was in that affidavit.”
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