One of the News Sentinel’s sister papers broke the news of Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shooting a fellow hunter.
Like the News Sentinel, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is an E.W. Scripps paper. Editor Libby Averyt wrote a column describing how her folks landed the story. I’ve included it as an extended entry. The paper also has produced a video demonstrating the pellet pattern of a 0.28 gauge shotgun http://www.caller2.com/specials/2006/gun_demo/index.html and has a reporter on camera describing reaction to the news. http://wms.scripps.com/caller/katy_garcia_interview.wmv
It’s fascinating for an old newspaperman to see colleagues adeptly doing journalism in a multimedia environment. First, they break the big story via an e-mail alert and on their Web site, then they develop it in print and video.
Is it a great time to be in the news business, or what?
Column of Libby Averyt, editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times
The next time someone argues that newspaper journalists are dinosaurs headed
for extinction, I’ll remind them of Vice President Dick Cheney’s shooting
accident on the Armstrong Ranch.
Radio stations and cable news channels didn’t break that news; neither did
local television news stations. You didn’t see it first on national news
websites or blogs or on the Sunday morning political talk shows.
Our own Caller-Times reporters were first with the story that Cheney had
accidentally shot Austin attorney Harry Whittington during a quail hunt in
Kenedy County. We broke the national story at 1:48 p.m. Sunday with an email
alert and a story on our website Caller.com, 48 minutes before the
Associated Press moved anything on the story and a full hour before CNN
issued an email alert.
We got the story the way dedicated journalists have tracked down news for
years – through strong, consistent building of sources and good,
As on most weekends, we operated with a skeleton crew this past Sunday, with
most staffers scheduled for work in the afternoon.
Because of the Armstrong family’s long-standing professional relationship
with reporter Jaime Powell, Katharine Armstrong called Powell around 8 a.m.
Sunday and left voice mail messages to return the call. Powell, who was in
Austin, did not immediately receive the messages.
Unable to reach Powell, Armstrong called the newsroom at about 11 a.m. and
told reporter Kathryn Garcia about the shooting. After that conversation,
Armstrong called Powell again, this time reaching her on her cell phone, and
also recounted the accident for her.
Driving back to Corpus Christi, Powell talked to Armstrong in detail, and
Garcia reported the story fully. She confirmed the shooting with the White
House, checked on Whittington’s condition at the hospital and called the
Kenedy County Sheriff’s Office, who said at the time that they had no record
of an incident at the Armstrong Ranch.
Garcia contacted her editors and wrote the story, which then went through a
quick editing process before being posted on Caller.com at 1:48 p.m. by New
Media Manager Trent Spofford.
Once in the newsroom, Powell spoke to Armstrong again and said she wanted to
talk with the vice president, whom she had met last year at the funeral of
Katharine Armstrong’s father, Tobin. Cheney came to the phone and briefly
spoke with Powell – so far his only public comment on the matter.
Online Editor John Allen worked with the newsroom throughout the day and
night Sunday, updating the story several times on Caller.com.
In Monday’s paper, we provided more details, maps and photos for those
readers who wanted more in-depth news. We continued to follow the story
Monday on Caller.com, with news that the sheriff didn’t investigate the
accident until Sunday, and in today’s newspaper.
The Associated Press and CNN picked up the story after us Sunday afternoon,
and news media organizations throughout the country, including The New York
Times and ABC’s Good Morning America, credited the Caller-Times with
breaking the story.
We fielded dozens of media calls Monday, with Powell and Garcia granting
numerous radio, television and print interviews.
Meanwhile, the national press corps grilled White House press secretary
Scott McClellan on Monday about why news of the shooting wasn’t released by
the White House or Cheney. The vice president’s main concern, McClellan
said, was for Whittington’s well-being.
And with the vice president’s knowledge, Armstrong called her hometown paper
“You had a relationship with my father,” she told Powell. “You and I had a
relationship and that relationship had grown stronger after my father’s
death, and my family was comfortable calling the hometown newspaper.
Maybe it’s the pride in my staff talking, but I believe the White House
press corps is whining just a bit because this news came first through a
local daily newspaper’s website and not following a mass press briefing
thousands of miles away from the accident. We got the story first by
consistently working hard and professionally. And because we did, the rest
of the world got the story, too.
“We knew we needed to make it public,” Armstrong told Powell. “It was a
private weekend hosted by a private family, and we were comfortable calling
the hometown paper and you.
“I trust you.”
Caller-Times employees work hard to establish that trust every day, and
that, coupled with aggressive, thorough and accurate reporting, will secure
our existence for decades to come. Whether we deliver the news through a
newspaper, a website or the new technology of tomorrow, we’ll still be the
ones who gather it. And if we do our job right, we’ll still be the ones you