Bloggers are accused of being one-sided, unprofessional, and not living up to journalistic standards. So when we find sloppy and unprofessional reporting by traditional news media outlets who are supposed to be setting the standards for journalism, we find such claims amusing.
Last week, WIS TV reporter Jack Kuenzie decided to grant a disgruntled former employee a forum to air his grievances against his former employer. In this story, Victor Harris, a Midlands resident, alleged he was fired from an unnamed Midlands trucking company. In the story, Harris claimed, without presenting any evidence, that he was fired for refusing to drive more than the permitted number of hours. He also alleged that safe practices were regularly ignored by his former employer.
So where did the story go wrong? Lack of fairness, lack of evidence and a clear lack of understanding of the trucking workforce demand:
First is the issue of fairness. Kuenzie's story did not report giving Harris' former employer a chance to respond to the allegations. A point which was raised in an email sent by Pat Barber, the President of Superior Transportation, to Kuenzie:
I'm very disappointed with the tone of the story. No reputable company manager or owner was interviewed, no background on how Mr. Harris failed as an owner operator, no mention of his work history or driving record. This was a sensationalized story, with little or no basis in truth. (I came to work today in a Ford pickup wearing jeans, and I've NEVER paid $500.00 for a suit!)
Knowing Barber, who has helped my company address work zone safety concerns, I know he's a hands-on guy who will be seen doing the hard work of trucking far more than wearing a suit and tie. He also has no tolerance for the risks or legal exposure from employing unsafe truck drivers. Such is the case for a lot of trucking companies in this state, many of which are small companies with a dozen or trucks in their fleets.
Second is the issue of a lack of evidence to support Harris' claims. None were presented in the story, and again, Barber calls Kuenzie out on this, pointing out that Harris "does not appear to have a good grasp of the regulations, and further, IF he possesses a good work history and safe driving record, he has no reason to be unemployed 'with extra time on his hands'".
Third is the issue of knowledge of trucking workforce needs. Working in human resources, I sometimes have to hunt down truck drivers with commercial driving licenses. In spite of the high unemployment rate, they're amazingly hard to find. HR people with other companies have reported the same difficulties. A few calls to local trucking companies would have likely told Kuenzie the same thing, supporting Barber's claim that Harris could've easily found work if he was a good employee.
If Kuenzie had done a better job in getting his facts in order, the story might've turned out very different - if it had been a story at all. Letting people know that he's a board of appeal for anyone who loses their job in today's economy probably isn't the smartest move, given the number of people who are out of work.
Next time he wants to do a story about following the rules, maybe he should apply a few to his own work first.