NCPR Newsfacts: ABC's response to NPR and NCPR's questions about the Primetime broadcast. 4/27/06
1. The Franklin County district attorney, Derek Champagne, has specifically raised the question of whether ABC news delayed this broadcast until the statute of limitations had expired and until Kyle Nelson was 18 years old. Please respond to that and explain why the broadcast was delayed for more than three years.
In no way shape or form is that the case. While we are aware the DA is asking that question in good faith and just trying to do his job, that question is absurd.
We did take a long time in producing this piece. Part of that was the need to log and review over a thousand hours of video tape. Part was the producers working on other pieces including a Polk Award winning investigation of VA hospitals, and part was due to many resources being reallocated in 2003 for coverage of the Iraq War. Also, Joe Nelson was in Iraq for a year, delaying follow up and a face-to-face interview which was key to the report.
Additionally, booking the block of time to air this length of a program is not an easy feat. For example, the program was scheduled to air last September but was pre-empted by Hurricane Katrina.
2. The district attorney has challenged ABC's assertion that the family received appropriate counseling following this violent incident. Please explain what services were provided to the family.
The family was in an ongoing program of both individual and family counseling and therapy, prior to and during ABCs involvement on the story. That counseling was separate from ABC. In addition, ABC sat the family down with experts.
3. The district attorney has said that his review of the tape suggests that the family had a sustained level of emotional violence. His assertion is that ABC couldn't have been reasonably confident that this would be an isolated incident.
If we thought Kyle or any child faced any imminent threat of harm, we would have acted. The fact of the matter is that out of over a thousand hours of tape sent by the Nelsons this was the only scene of physical punishment. There was no other indication in all the footage that Kyle or the other children in the family were in physical danger. In fact ABC knew the Nelsons were actively addressing their problems through family therapy and Kyle in individual counseling.
4. Does ABC news believe that a serious assault occurred in this case? or does the network believe this event is being mischaracterized?
We believe that the incident was disturbing; however, taking into account all that we saw and in talking with our experts about the extended excerpts they watched, we did not feel the children where in danger.
5. Does ABC News have specific guidelines for dealing with incidents of this kind, specifically when they involve children?
If we see something where we think there is imminent threat or that someone of any age is in physical peril we act. We are always prepared to shut down the story. Producers who work at ABC News know this.
We realize that on stories like this we are not only journalists we are also citizens and we take that responsibility seriously. With each story we make individual judgments based on the totality of information.
For this broadcast, as with all of ABC broadcasts, footage and content is reviewed from dozens of people including producers, standards and practices and our legal department.
Paige Capossela | ABC News Media Relations