When Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon walked out of the federal courthouse immediately after his arrest on public corruption charges on Wednesday, March 26, only one reporter was waiting to question him, WCNC’s Senior Reporter Rad Berky from the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate.
And within a few hours, Luanne Stuart, WCNC’s creative services director, had turned the scoop into a marketing ad supporting its position as the station ‘that’s looking out for you’.
“I’m generally not a fan of POPs,” said Stuart, “they’re over-used and the audience is sophisticated and doesn’t want to hear how great a TV station is. But this is the biggest story in the city and it affects everyone. This is about how our news team established trust with a high-ranking source, did their homework, and broke the story.”
The dramatic video of the mayor and the reporter walking briskly toward the camera was shot by WCNC photographer Mike Hanson as he walked backwards, trying desperately to keep the two in frame. Hanson’s video captures Berky firing questions at the mayor about his arrest.
But it wasn’t luck that put Berky at the courthouse at that moment giving WCNC a bona fide scoop on the story.
It was the result of the trust established by the news department with a high-ranking source, according to the station’s creative services director, Luanne Stuart.
“We got a tip at 10:30 that a city official was about to be arrested,” said Stuart.
After the call, Assistant News Director Leesa Dillon pulled her news team together to plan the station’s coverage anticipating the worst case scenario, that it was the mayor who was to be arrested.
According to Dillon, a “road map was developed to determine who was to go where and do what’.
At around 1 in the afternoon, the information that the mayor was arrested was confirmed.
Senior reporter Rad Berky, and photographer Mike Hanson went to the courthouse in time to catch the mayor coming out. At around 1:45, WCNC-TV and WCNC.com broke the story to the residents of Charlotte.
Mayor Patrick Cannon faces several charges including theft, bribery, wire fraud and extortion after being in office for 114 days.
To see more coverage of the story, go here.