I received a note today from a reporter who has been covering the Jim Walsh trial, pointing out that VOCM has been carrying regular updates on the proceedings.
However, VOCM has not had a person covering the trial in quite some time, if at all.
Which raises the question: how are they getting their information?
I was quick to leap to the most obvious conclusion, that VOCM are rewriting stories from other sources, such as NTV, CBC, and The Telegram. So I sent off a quick note to Gerry Phelan, News Director at VOCM, to ask if this is the case. He called me back right away.
We use Canadian Press (CP) wire copy, which we pay substantial dollars for, Phelan said. We use the wire for Canadian and international stories. The Telegram files stories to CP, and we have rights to use them for broadcast.
Phelan said that, as a blanket policy, VOCM has never covered court case, though there are occasional exceptions. We dont cover cases from start to finish, so therefore we dont think its fair for us to try to be there for just part of it. Mike Critch used to do crime, but he never stepped in the courtroom. He used to do it from the back of the newsroom. Weve never had a reporter tasked to the courts.
As part of its contract with CP stories it does carry have to be rewritten.
A while back, we posted by accident a story that was ripped right off the wire, that wasnt rewritten, Phelan said. It was Telegram copy to the wire that went to our web site. It may have been on our web site before they had it out, but certainly The Telegram was pissed. They contacted CP, and the Vice President of CP was soon on the phone to me, and then I figured out what it was. We quickly took it off our web site.
There was a day when it was common for reporters to pick up news stories by listening to or reading the competition. I remember working at The Daily News in 1974, in the paste-up department, and noticing one of the reporters tape recording the newscast. He then typed whatever stories the paper didnt have, straight off the radio newscast. When I asked him about it, he said, Oh, it's no big deal. They'll be reading our stories on the news tomorrow too!
Phelan had similar experiences, back in the day. I cant tell you the last time I sat there, typing up a story that was on somewhere else. But I do remember those days. When I was at Q-Radio in the Seventies, wed sit back and listen to what VOCM had. Id have a typewriter. Their news was quarter to eight and ours was eight oclock. And if they had a good lead story, yes sir, we had it on our next newscast.