Monday, November 17, 2014

College crime felt non-existent when I went school

I think my college life was a bit of a Utopian experience. In the late 1990s, I went to a very small religious college just outside of St. Louis.

Hearing about the college crimes that affect metro-area students in Houston makes me feel lucky that crime wasn't an issue for us.

Principia College had about 500 students when I was there. Our doors didn't lock. There wasn't a need. Theft wasn't a problem. A sex offense was very, very uncommon. I don’t even recall it ever happening during my time there.

What a different life than what students at major universities and colleges in the Houston area experience.

I invite you to watch our campus crime story tonight. We’ll rank the top five colleges with the highest crime rates. (We looked at only the most serious crimes reported in federal law.) The story I did with producer Lauren Sweeney airs Monday on Local 2 at 10.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Viewers deserve the facts so they can make up their own minds

Tonight I reported on many issues of the DuPont chemical spill near La Porte, Texas where four people died. In my report I included details about past incidents at the facility and another of the company's facilities.

This prompted a viewer to comment the following:
What is the deal with previous violations? I'm sure the news media has previous violations that have or could have caused injury to people in the surrounding area. Are we looking for something to make a news story with? Isn't the news media happy that something dreadful has occurred and killed people so that they don't have to make up news stories.

I enjoy sharing our thought process when it comes to selecting stories. Here is my reply:


I can assure you, I'm not happy with the fact four people died. I feel terribly for their families and loved ones.
As an investigative reporter, sometimes past company action is important. If you don't believe that, that's your prerogative. I think it's always important to look at what has happened previously because it can, in some cases, show a pattern. Maybe it shows other things.
I'm a firm believer in giving viewers all the facts. I don't want to be the one saying, in my opinion this incident was important and this one wasn't, so I'm going to withhold information. I think it's important to put the facts out there and let viewers make the decision. I'll let them decide what's important.
I don't agree that we made up any story here. That's a pretty strong allegation to make against someone whose work is based on honesty and accuracy.
Please don't let my honest response here make you think I don't appreciate you sharing your point of view. It's important that viewers do so. For that, I thank you.

What do you think?

Friday, November 14, 2014

I love it when @KPRCLocal2 viewers make me laugh.

Every once in a while, viewers make me laugh with their witty comments.

I’ve decided to start sharing them.

Earlier today, I postponed my weekend camping trip. Camping is fun, but camping in the rain is not. Randall’s reply to my ‘canceled camping tweet’ is a funny one.

Monday, November 10, 2014

One of the most fascinating interviews I've done airs Tuesday at 10pm. @KPRCLocal2

I’m lucky enough to interview people from all walks of life. Until recently, I’d never interviewed someone who has witnessed nearly 280 executions.

An article in the publication Texas Monthly piqued the interest of one of our investigative producers.

When she explained that a former spokeswoman for the prison system was willing to talk about her job, which required she watch the executions, I knew we should make an effort to talk with this person.

I drove with a photographer on Halloween day to Michelle Lyon’s home near Huntsville and interviewed her in her living room.
She was open with details. I suppose the topic of executions is interesting to most people. Hearing first-hand details from someone with a unique perspective was fascinating.

What added another level of interest for me was how Lyons described not being affected by the first several dozen executions she witnessed. It wasn't until after she left her position with the state that she realized she had been affected in a big way.

I invite you to watch her interview Tuesday night at 10 p.m. A few people in the newsroom have watched clips as we go through the edit process. They are captivated just as I was.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When you’re reporting & you have no idea what you are about to say

We use a teleprompter in television, everyone knows that. That doesn't mean we don’t pre-read our copy ahead of time. It’s helpful to know which words to stress and make sure you give the story the proper ‘read.’

Last night I was casually walking into the studio 10 minutes before I needed to be there. Suddenly, the floor crew was ushering me up to our big monitor to be live reading a short tease of my upcoming story. (Teases are written by the show producer, not usually by the reporter.)

I'd never read the copy. As I started reading the tease live on TV, I had no idea what words were going to be across the teleprompter. Granted I didn't have to read much and I knew the topic, but it was still a bit uncomfortable.

You can see where I didn't quite stress "over budget" the right way. That's because I didn't see the word coming early enough to realize that.

Some viewers have told me they enjoy hearing what happens behind the scenes so I thought I'd share this. It was, in the end, not a big deal. Many people have tougher jobs and I love mine. I'm not complaining, just sharing what I hope people at home didn't realize.

You can watch the actual story here:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trying not to feed the #Ebola hype, but it is incredibly tough #TipJace

Before I went on the air this week with news a Houston area woman had died after visiting Nigeria, I reminded myself that viewers want facts not hype.
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In the report, I was honest and upfront. I thought I explained that we did not know whether this was an Ebola case. (We made the decision to go on the air with the news because investigators were about to be walking around a populated area in hazmat/protective suits and it would surely cause alarm given what has unfolded in Dallas.)

Not three minutes after I was done with my live report, a resident from the area came rushing up to me worried. She had not seen my report but her mother had. Her mother was “freaking out” and very worried about the “new case of Ebola.”

I’m not sure what else I could have said in this report to be more clear. We did not know if the deceased woman had Ebola. She visited an African country but it had not had a case in 21 days. (That’s the longest time it’s believed a person can have the disease without showing strong symptoms that make most people seek medical help.)

As I reported this case on Twitter, I did what I've seen many other journalists do. Be clear in each Tweet. Don't expect people to have read every other Tweet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I tried live blogging my day as a reporter. Hard to imagine people interested in every detail. #TipJace

I'll admit, it was fun and hard to remember to update Twitter at every big turn. It did get some good reaction from viewers. Thank you for caring enough to interact with me throughout my day yesterday.

Here is a slice of my Tweets from Tuesday.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hide-and-seek with the judge in my story wasn’t necessary, to my surprise

Just when I thought I was going to have a hard time finding the former judge in my story which airs Monday night, I was surprised. He’s the back story to the interview.

My story: A Local 2 Investigation showed how the man acting as the City of Kenefick municipal judge, Eric Baumgart, is the former Liberty County Constable’s deputy who a jury convicted of writing a woman a fake traffic ticket in 2011. The prosecutor alleged Baumgart wrote the ticket in order to get a woman who he used to live with in trouble with the law. The incident cost Baumgart his deputy job.

I looked up some of Baumgart’s addresses in court paperwork and also left a message with someone who knew him. I hadn't heard back after a short while so I visited his house. Surprisingly, he answered the door and came outside to answer my questions.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Enjoying Twitter analytics

Lately I've become a frequent visitor to Twitter's analytics.

It lets you download their data so you can manipulate and sort it in Excel. It helped me find my "best" Tweet and ones that didn't perform well.

The Bad

I didn't do so well with that one.

The Good

On the other hand, this one performed well:

Overall lesson

Almost without exception, Tweets with photos perform much better.
Something else I learned, few people click on my #HashTags.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The government & @USGSA owe us an explanation.

This week I aired an investigation into a border crossing project being built by the federal government. Not only does the bridge currently not go anywhere, but subcontractors on the project say they aren't getting paid all the money due to them.

Watch the story and decide for yourself whether they have a right to be frustrated and whether the project is a good idea.

I am very disappointed that the federal government refused to sit down and answer questions about the project. Sure, they gave a statement. They did that before I even asked them all my questions.

When people have concerns about taxpayer spending or a government project, the government owes it to all of us to sit down and, in a respectable exchange of questions and answers, address people's issues.

Did this rise to the level of flying to Washington, D.C. and ambushing the head of the GSA (government agency building the bridge) for an interview? I decided no. (I prefer to handle matters other ways.)

I am open to other journalist's and viewer's thoughts. 

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Responding to a viewer: Why publicize a child sex predator's alleged actions?

This week, I covered a man who allegedly sexually abused more than 90 children while he taught at numerous American schools in foreign countries. 

(Read/watch the story: platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player 

The allegations are heartbreaking. May of the victims may not know because court documents show William Vahey allegedly gave his victims sleeping pills before he took photos of himself molesting them.

The alleged actions may have started in the 1970s and could have continued until Vahey killed himself in March after learning he was under investigation.

Some viewers, including "hunterson" asked why we were making the story public and whether it could harm victims. Here is why we chose to publish the story.
Hmmm... the perp committed suicide. So why the big high profile push? Why stir this up further?

You aren't the only person who has asked this question. Let me try to answer.

Victims often have an intense desire to know what happened to their perpetrator. They want to understand why they were targeted. Often they want to attend court hearings to see justice be carried out. In this case, because Vahey killed himself, that's not possible.

In a court case, victims are given the opportunity to seek counseling through the victims compensation services offered by state or federal governments. Though Vahey is dead, victims can still seek such help in this case. Making them aware of this option is very important to the FBI and to me.

Because of the nature of these alleged actions (sleeping pills,) some people victimized may never know they are victims. Parents have a right to know their children may be victims. Sadly, without making this story public... there was no good way to reach such people.

You'll notice we did not publicize any victim's names. Many have courageously chosen to come forward and share their stories.

Lastly, this case may very well highlight problems in the "system" that would not be brought to people's attention without the case being made public.

With all that said, I'm open to further discussion. Thank you for letting me respond.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My morning show debut w/ @KPRCconflenti & @KPRCRachel

To most... idea of working a 12-hour day... then sleeping for 6 hours... then coming back to work at 5 a.m. might not sound like fun.... but I loved it. I made my KPRC Local 2 morning show debut today.

Just like you, I watch Owen & Rachel each morning... and just like you, I rarely see them in person.

It was a nice treat to see them both as we talked about football helmet safety ratings this morning.

Here's our report.

Read more on our website:

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Sunshine Kitty"... going after an online business

First of all... anytime I get a story about someone named "Sunshine Kitty," I'm going to jump on the tip.

It turned out to be a Houston-based online company whose customers weren't getting their products.

I certainly don't investigate every company I get tips about, but we decided to dig into this one after learning more than 50 people in a month had complained to Houston's Better Business Bureau.

With only her website name and a post office box, we went to work to try and track her down. If you've never used the site, check it out. It will show you the registered agent of most websites including addresses, emails and phone numbers. This is how we got her phone number. From there we tracked back her recent address.

We are pretty sure we have her Facebook page too.

Starting up a business is hard, but ceasing to communicate with your customers is inexcusable.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Worth remembering something about 911 call takers

As people watch my story tonight on 911 hangups, I hope viewers remember that in most cases 911 operators work to save people's lives.

I've spent time at the 911 call center and found most of the employees I interacted with to be friendly.

The Houston 911 center takes somewhere near 300,000 calls a year, according to its spokesperson.

The cases in tonight's story deal with only a small portion of the calls the center receives. However they are important to bring to light. Every life is important.

I hope you will share with me your thoughts on the story.