In the past 24 hours I have read about 150 email responses to my blog on the viewer criticizing our coverage of the soldier returning home from Japan, not a war zone.
The soldier's family alerted the local media about a big welcome home at the airport for him Monday night and we went.
When I got an email from the offended viewer I put it on my blog. Glad I did. First, I'm thrilled to see how many people go to www.kmov.com. But mostly I'm impressed by the different repsonses. All were full of passion... many were respectful no matter which side they took (and there's always that segment of people just mad at the world and look for every opportunity to be mean-spirited... God bless those people, too).
What I found really interesting is the different responses from veterans. Some were on the side of the viewer critical of us and saying we should ONLY cover soldiers who put their lives on the line in a war zone, but many said we should do positive stories on the military any chance we get and we got a lot of support for doing the story on the Army specialist returning from Japan (or "vacation" as some of the critics put it).
So what did we at KMOV learn from all this? Well, I can only speak for myself and personally I think we should do what we can to show our servicemen and women in a positive light whenever we can. I heard from several Vietnam vets who spoke of being ignored or spit on when they got home. They deserved much better.
So I think if a military family calls us and tell us about a welcome-home shindig for a loved one returning from serving overseas, I think we're going to continue to try to be there. The key word is TRY.
I know some people like to think we have an agenda, but the truth is our only agenda is to cover the news the best we can. On a slow news night we can get to stories like a soldier coming home... but on a night when major breaking news happens (ie: officer shot, major building fire) then we won't get to stories like that. That makes sense, doesn't it?
And if stories on soldiers returning home (whether from being in harm's way or not) offend you... well... keep that remote control nearby. I won't be offended if you change the channel.
Mark Schnyder is a reporter at KMOV-TV. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.