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Still Talkin TV » Newberg Disappoints in ‘Big Get’

Newberg Disappoints in ‘Big Get’

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Channel 4 senior correspondent Rich Newberg had the potential breaking news story of a lifetime when City Grill suspect Riccardo M. McCray surrendered at the station’s Elmwood Avenue studios Wednesday afternoon hours before he was charged with four counts of murder.

What reporter wouldn’t jump at the chance of interviewing McCray after the suspect had been on the loose since the Aug. 14 shootings that left four dead and four wounded?

Naturally, Channel 4 played the story big at 11 p.m., devoting almost 10 minutes to the surrender and the impact on an anxious community.

On the set, Channel 4 anchor Don Postles spent almost as much or more time interviewing Newberg about the station’s coup as the correspondent had with McCray.

Postles’ interview was more enlightening, too.

Newberg really didn’t take full advantage of his big get. His questions to the suspect were so soft that they didn’t lead to much content.

When Channel 4 legal analyst Terry Connors said later in the newscast that the interview could eventually be problematic to McCray’s defense because he made some statements in an interview that was filmed, one wondered if Connors had seen the interview. It was hard to see what McCray had said that could do him any harm in court.

In between sips of water, McCray told Newberg he didn’t do it, felt badly for the impact on the community and seemed surprised that the police were after him.

 Of course, it can be difficult for a reporter to ask the best questions immediately when a story falls into one’s lap, especially when the reporter realizes that the police are on the way.

Newberg’s soft questions didn’t lead to any enlightening answers. Some of his questions actually were as much statements as questions. “You said you didn’t do it? Do you know who did?” “Did you see anyone get hit?” “This has torn apart (the community) How do you view that?”

It would have been better if Newberg hadn’t worried so much about McCray’s feelings about what the crime had done to the community and asked him more direct questions that undoubtedly were on the minds of some viewers.

Assuming the interview was granted without limitations, Newberg might have asked McCray: Why did he choose community activist Darnell Jackson to orchestrate his surrender? Why didn’t he just surrender to police directly? Did he leave the Buffalo area for the Carolinas, as reported by Channel 2? Does he belong to a gang, as police have said? (Update: Channel 4 ran more clips from Newberg’s  interview at 5 p.m. today in which McCray denied being in a gang.) Why did he think the Buffalo police were looking for him despite his claim of innocence? Does he have an extensive criminal record? Did police pressure lead to his surrender?

Jackson and Bishop Perry Davis suggested they brought McCray to Channel 4 to make sure his arrest was done peacefully.  But it would have been preferable to hear McCray address those questions.

After watching Channel 4’s weak report, all this reporter could think is that McCray surrendered to Channel 4 and Newberg because it was the TV station that is the furthest from downtown, police headquarters and the shootings. Channel 4 is close to the Kenmore border, while Channel 7 and Channel 2 are several blocks from the shootings on Main Street.

After his story was over, Postles asked Newberg some pertinent questions, including whether he was nervous.

“Not a typical day in the newsroom,” concluded Postles.

Newberg did praise the three Channel 4 photojournalists who worked with him on the story and said it  couldn’t have been presented the way it was without them.

 That sounded like an inside baseball comment since TV stations now are demanding that even veteran reporters shoot their own video.

 Newberg’s comment came on the same day that the union NABET, which represents photojournalists and other behind-the-scenes personnel, ratified a deal with Channel 4’s owner, LIN TV.

 One of my TV spies cracked after the deal was ratified “can you imagine if Rich Newberg had to shoot his own video?”

 I certainly couldn’t imagine that happening Wednesday.

 Newberg had enough problems doing his own job without worrying about shooting the story.


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6 Responses to “Newberg Disappoints in ‘Big Get’”

  1. Bev Cortese says:

    Agree with you Alan.

  2. BobbyCat says:

    If I was Rich Newberg, I would worry – If this guy really is the shooter, is he armed, is he crazy, will he shoot me if I start asking tough questions? Maybe he’s here to surrender but maybe not. Maybe he’s here to go out in a blaze of gunfire or “suicide by cop”. Usually when murder suspects are questioned they are shackled to a heavy steel table. If I was Newberg, I might have stapled the guy to the floor before I asked my questions.

    Interestingly, the other TV Channels would not mention “Channel 4″ in their coverage, gave them zero credit, wouldn’t mention their name. They called it “a local TV station”. It reminds me of pissy mean girls feuding in High School. This was a big story. They should grow up.

  3. Tom Dolina says:

    Rich, time to ditch the comb-over; it only works from one camera angle, if at all…

  4. Louis says:

    For being a journalism professor, I’m disappointed in your critique of Rich Newberg’s treatment of this situation. WIVB posted a ten minute interview with the alleged killer on their website. By watching it, it quickly becomes clear why Rich was not so direct and cutting with McCray. This was not an interview without limitations. Rich was in a room with a handful of people, including Bishop Davis and activist Jackson, who consistently threw up roadblocks. They were essentially there to “protect” McCray in the absence of a lawyer and Rich was doing his best to get information without stepping on toes.

    As for the information he got, I’d argue that given the circumstances, and the fact McCray himself was skittish and terrified knowing he’d be turning himself into the cops, Rich did a great job. He got McCray to admit he was at the party, say he wasn’t the shooter, describe in his own words what he remembers that night, and more. As for going after Ch. 2, I didn’t watch the 11, but I know that at 5, Rich had McCray saying he was in Buffalo for the past few days and found out through a cousin that the police were after him. As for other details you wanted – McCray told Rich he was afraid of the police and Jackson told Rich that McCray came to him for the same reason.

    All-in-all I was disappointed by your article on this Alan. I checked and all of this information is easily accessible on Ch. 4′s website. I usually enjoy and laugh at your critiques, but maybe if you had caught other reports you would have had a better understanding of this story.

  5. Mike says:

    I’d be walking on eggshells if a suspected murderer wanted to surrender to me. Who wants to take the risk of “offending” that dude? Frankly, I’m glad all of the WIVB folks are safe. As a manager I would have to seriously consider evacuating the building of all but essential staff. Who knows what that dude could have been thinking.

  6. Viewer says:

    Unfortunately, Jackson only went to 4 because Jackson has gotten profiled on there all the time. He’s camera hungry. It was a disappointing job by 4′s staff.

    By the way, Alan…. Why don’t you ever talk about YNN in your blog? They’ve been doing a pretty good job as of late. On top of their stuff just like 2/4/7? Nicki Mayo would have been a good get if he turned himself in there, but that’d be too close to downtown?

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