WCCO acknowledges Duck Dog story on website

Categories: Media beefs
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James Schugel's story has been sorta unscrubbed.
Before this afternoon, if one were to rely purely on the content of WCCO's website, the now-notorious "duck dog" story never happened.

That all came to an end this afternoon.

Although it contains no new information, an editor's note has finally been posted to the website that acknowledges, that, like, yeah this one time? We TOTALLY did a story about a meat market that sold dog meat, but, um, actually the butcher was saying duck. Whoops!

The original mistake was bad enough -- reporter James Schugel reported that a Chinatown meat market was selling "dogs for people to eat" and implied they came from a dog breeder in Minnesota. That was ascertained by a phone call in which Schugel asked repeatedly if the market sold dog meat. The worker thought Schugel said, "duck." The rest is history.

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James Schugel and the fateful dog-duck moment.
But once WCCO discovered the story had a huge error in it, they reacted in a way that has drawn just as much criticism as the story itself. They deleted it from their website, as if it never happened. Up until this week, anyone curious about the story couldn't watch it anywhere (it's now available on YouTube).

Now, three weeks after the duck-dog controversy started, WCCO posted an acknowledgment of the story and the error in an editor's note. It reads, in part:

When we called the market, the person we spoke to said he didn't speak English but then gave an interview in English. We asked him if the market sold dogs, and we believed he answered in the affirmative. We now believe he said duck.

Read the whole thing here.

No news yet on whether WCCO will be apologizing to the Asian American Journalists Association or anyone else for that matter, but at least now the internet record stands just a little bit straighter. This happened. We didn't dream it.

Previous coverage:
WCCO reports Chinatown meat market sells dog instead of duck
WCCO Duck Dog Story: Newsroom source predicts "heads will roll" and reveals how mistakes were made [UPDATE]
WCCO Duck Dog footage surfaces on YouTube [VIDEO]


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8 comments
Adam Minter
Adam Minter

Guy -

How are things in the WCCO newsroom? You the joker who cooked up the admit nothing strategy that's effectively tanked Schugel's ability to work anywhere else?

Guy
Guy

still?

rental mobil
rental mobil

Nice article, thanks for the information.

rental mobil
rental mobil

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Alan_Producer
Alan_Producer

Here's a thought experiment:

Tomorrow, James Schugel decides to apply for a job at another local television network outside of Minnesota. Does he get hired? Does the HR department, after googling his name, even offer him an interview?

I'm pretty sure the answer is 'no.' Which then begs the question: why is WCCO still employing a reporter who couldn't beg his way into another job somewhere else at this point?

This isn't just Schugel's fault, of course. If the world were a just place, the producers who signed off on this story without insisting Schugel double-check his facts should have their names tarnished just as badly. But they won't. Hell, the WCCO statement on the matter takes extra care to protect the names of all those involved, and it'll probably take a discovery request from the market to find out just who's culpable.

What's so pathetic about this matter is that it would've been an odd footnote to Schugel's career if WCCO had just come out and corrected it the next night. But by drawing this thing out, they turned the entire matter into an internet sensation that will forever be associated with Schugel's name.

It's funny how people who deal with PR people all of the time can be so boneheaded when it comes to handling their own PR.

Adam Minter
Adam Minter

Dropping this the day before the long Thanksgiving weekend is the closest WCCO can get to saying 'this didn't happen' without actually saying it didn't happen. The hope is that nobody will notice they're acknowledging an error in the story, all the while giving themselves an out when critics point out that they scrubbed the whole thing in the hours following broadcast.

There are a number of problems here, obviously, but the most serious is that WCCO seems to be in utter denial about the credibility of its news organization. For now, they seem to be standing on the defense that the rest of the duck/dog story is true, so nobody needs to continue worrying about the substantial (and probably legally actionable) error that sits in the  middle of it.

But Schugel's comically bad reporting of duck/dog, and the total lack of fact-checking and oversight of it by WCCO producers, calls into question the entire story and, arguably, WCCO's news department. After all, if James Schugel can get away without double-checking who the CURRENT tenant of a building is, then run an allegation gleaned from a phone interview (that could NOT be verified by someone visiting the site of the allegation), it seems reasonable to believe that other WCCO reports can make the same kinds of basic reporting errors.

In any event, WCCO's new approach - "the reporting was wrong, but we still believe there's something fishy about that address" - is the stuff of rumor, not journalism. And the station just looks worse and worse.

Guillermo Williams
Guillermo Williams

The media is quick to pounce on politicians on an alleged "cover-up," but when the shoe is on the other foot, it's amazing that WCCO-TV in essence said, "The story never occurred."

WCCO-TV seems to devote all their air time to the lifestyles of Frank and Amelia, along with other inane stories.

Michele Bachmann
Michele Bachmann

How dare you suggest its inane to cover the life of Frank and Amelia!    Bastard.  Without studying the lives of our betters how will we improve?     That is real news Mr. Hater.   I'm slowly turning my apartment into an exact replica of Frank and Amelia's place so this sort of reporting is very helpful. 

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