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Filming a soldier's death, CBS Byron Pitts and the tough interview

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Michelle Hiskey, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. Al Tompkins posted this today on poynter.org... Byron Pitts used to work here in Atlanta and is a really sharp journalist.
    given previous topics on conducting difficult interviews, y'all might want to read about Byron's recent piece:

    From Al:
    Friday's most-emailed story on CBSNews.com was an eight-minute story that aired Thursday on CBS Evening News (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/31/eveningnews/main3776580.shtml?source=mostpop_story) . It was the longest single story to air on the evening broadcast since Walter Cronkite was sitting in the anchor chair. It was a blockbuster.

    The piece raises disturbing questions about the care that military doctors give to our servicemen and women, and it presses the issue of whether soldiers should be able to sue the federal government for malpractice -- which is not currently allowed.

    National Correspondent Byron Pitts tells the story of Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez III, a 29-year-old who "loved life, his family and the Marine Corps. He was also an artist, a father, and a part-time actor. He once appeared with Katie Holmes in a scene on the TV series Dawson's Creek."

    Pitts met Rodriguez two months ago. The Evening News story shows graphic video of Rodriquez, who weighed less than 80 pounds. For a year and a half he was slowing dying from stage 4 melanoma.

    CBS.com reports:

    When Sgt. Rodriguez was in Iraq, military doctors, he says, misdiagnosed his skin cancer. They called it "a wart."

    Eight minutes after Pitts met Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez, and CBS News was preparing to interview him, he died.

    At his family's insistence, Pitts and the camera crew stayed. With his body in the very next room, Pitts sat down with his relatives.

    Pitts asked: "Why have us here for such a painful moment for your family?"

    "[It was] His wish to have this known, because he doesn't want any other soldier to fight for his country and go through what he had to go through," said Rodriguez's uncle, Dean Ferraro. "To be neglected."

    I interviewed Byron Pitts by e-mail. ...

    Tompkins: You must have known he was near death when you arrived at his home. Tell us about the ethics conversations you had about what images are too graphic for the evening news.

    Pitts: As [producer] Rodney [Comrie] and I were in the car for the two-and-a-half-hour ride to the Rodriquez home, he actually posed the question: "What if he dies while we're there?" My first reaction was, "Come on, how likely is that? Just stop it. Turn the radio back up." So he asked again. After some soul searching we agreed that if it came time to cross that bridge we'd be professional.

    And we agreed to treat the Rodriquez family like we'd like our family to be treated. On the way I shared with Rodney a story Ed Bradley told me once about the secret to a strong interview. Ed said, "Just read, read, read. Then listen, listen, listen.".....

    Tompkins: What did you learn by telling this story?

    Pitts: What we do still matters. People matter. People still crave and appreciate seeing and reacting to news of substance. I was reminded of something else I learned at Poynter years ago from (you) ... People remember how they felt longer than what they know. That's always stuck to me. More than a trick to keep in your pocket, it's a reminder that in TV news we have a chance to challenge the human brain and heart. We can't take either for granted. ....
  2. SnoopyBoy

    SnoopyBoy Member

    Wow, that was shocking
  3. Stone Cane

    Stone Cane Member

    Byron Pitts is one of the best people I've had the pleasure to know and work with

    and a freaking great newsman.

    he's a credit to the business and i'm proud to be in the same line of work as him

    devastating story, handled sensitively
  4. FreddiePatek

    FreddiePatek Active Member

    That story utterly, completely, undeniably, beyond all doubt pisses me off. The incompetence shown my the military in these cases ... my god.

    Fantastic work by Byron Pitts.

    If Sam Zell didn't know (read that thread), this is why we are in this business.
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