Don’t be so judgmental

I don’t know why Court of Appeals decisions that describe journalistic tactics taken by TV stations amuse me.

But they do, and I found another one.

This one, much like the last one I wrote about, deals with a story that local station WTMJ did during sweeps week. This time, it had to do with bus drivers with criminal convictions.

The appellate court, in an opinion released Tuesday, upheld a ruling by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Timothy Witkowiak to dismiss a lawsuit that bus driver Melissa Dumas filed against the TV station for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with a contractual relationship.

Judge Patricia Curley

Judge Patricia Curley

Appellate Judge Patricia Curley, in her opinion, said that since the TV station and reporter Rob Koebel relied on facts and a story that presented a legitimate public concern, Dumas had no grounds to ask for damages.

That’s all well and good. But I wanted to focus on Curley’s description of the newscast. To me, it read like Curley was mocking WTMJ for the report and questioning how truly “investigative” the piece ended up being.

“In the broadcast, one of the I-team’s reporters, Koebel, explained how the team made its “explosive” discoveries; pursuant to public records supplied by the school district, the I-team received a list of over one thousand bus drivers working for the ten or so companies hired by the district to provide busing services to school children.”

It goes on like this for several paragraphs.

Now, I guess their description makes me laugh. But it also makes me wonder: is this indicative of what judges and attorneys think of reporters?

I have never had a story result in a lawsuit. But if it happens, I hope the judge at least speaks kindly about my reporting.

(For what it’s worth, Richard Schulz, Dumas’ attorney, said he plans to petition the state Supreme Court to take up the case.)

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