I was shocked and angered to read in the May 31 "Buzz" column the totally inaccurate and insulting account of my alleged poor coverage of a tragic story of a fire for Channel 13 Eyewitness News, in which a mother "dropped her child into the arms of rescuers" and "jumped herself as flames closed in."
According to the "Buzz," I "rushed" to the woman "who seemed to be in shock and wasn't talking to anyone." It went on to state that I "wasn't taking no for an answer(and) pressed the woman to consent to an interview." Even worse, the writer invented a script having me then allegedly say, "We can help you," and "Does she know she's eligible for free lodging for the night?" As a final slap, the writer stated: "Under Trina's unrelenting good-Samaritan shtick, the woman relented and gave a 20-second interview" Finally, the article ended with an off-handed dig at the Channel 13 news management saying that I was told, "Trina, get the story," and even worse, in a blatant expression of sexism, referred to me as "dear."
Hold the phone! This was a totally false and distorted account of the facts.
Fact: I have no authority to offer lodging and it would be most unprofessional for me to do so in return for an interview.
Fact: The woman I interviewed was visiting the apartment building _ she had a home to which she could return and did not need assistance.
Fact: I was introduced to the woman by a person with whom I do business who happened to live in the same community. She talked to me at his urgings and the urgings of rescuers who caught her and her child when they leaped from the burning building.
Fact: It was her aunt who resided in the building and who was not at the scene who needed help.
Fact: It was the aunt's daughter who asked me about lodging for her now-displaced mother.
Fact: I advised the daughter that the Red Cross and fire department could possibly assist them. During the exchange, another family member became irritated at the presence of reporters. She blurted, "You shouldn't be talking to her (meaning me). We need to figure out what we're going to do." I responded, "You can get help." The sister and I then continued to chat. She thanked me at the end of our conversation. By day's end, with the assistance of the Tampa Fire Department and the Red Cross, a place had been secured for her mother. There was never an interview with the mother or the daughter. I did nothing but point the daughter in the right direction.
My job is to give the public a fair, accurate and objective accounting of the news and its impact on them as well as on all of our lives. That's my responsibility as a journalist. That's more than I can say for the anonymous author of the distorted "Buzz."
Frankly, "Buzz," I would be astounded to learn that the St. Petersburg Times editors and publisher would tell you something like "Buzz, write the column, ignore the factsdear."
Trina Robinson, News Anchor/Reporter,
Channel 13, Eyewitness News, Tampa