“WFAA-TV Innovates”

September 13, 2016 

Imagine you’re a Donald Trump supporter and a TV reporter is doing a story about the border wall. Would you trust that story? Probably not. But what if that supporter traveled with the reporter, seeing what the reporter sees, asking their own questions and reaching their own conclusion? That’s Verify Road Trip.

WFAA is about as “legacy” as it gets. To break the mold, our parent company, TEGNA, challenged us to develop a new way to “truth test the news”. We responded by incorporating a guest reporter into the journalistic process– and turned fact-checking on its head.

As you’ll see, Verify is just one several innovative collaborations from WFAA reporter David Schechter and photographer Chance Horner.

Through their collaboration with Alex Krueger (Creative Services Producer), Horner and Schechter co-created and co-produced the Verify Road Trip franchise. At its heart, Verify takes real people on the road to get their questions answered. The device and its execution help establish a more trustworthy bond with the audience. In addition to the new concept Horner and Schechter had to invent new techniques and processes to make these stories a reality.

LINK 1 to content online

Schechter and Horner also created #24Love, where they streamed 24-hours of uninterrupted storytelling to the web. It was feat of technology, endurance, planning, information-sharing and fun as viewers learned how Dallas Love Field has been able to double the number of passengers it serves in just a few short years.

LINK 2 to content online

The night after Christmas 2015, a massive tornado touched down in Garland, Texas destroying 300 homes. No one died inside any of those houses. But the destruction was so stunning that the true tragedy of that night was mostly overlooked; the tornado also swept across Interstate 30, killing nine motorists.

How could nine deaths be overlooked? Because, within hours, highway workers had cleared all the cars and debris and reopened the interstate. That left no visible signs and little comprehension of that night’s horror. The community and media intensely focused on the visible damage while the families of the dead were left wondering how their loved ones died.

Through an innovative use of documentary-style techniques, rarely seen on local news, Night on the Bridge was conceived as a way to set the record straight.

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On Election Day, working with Digital Director Jeff Anastasio, they captured the frustration of the electorate by inviting the public (and the virtual public on social media) to write goodbye wishes to the election on a vintage Cadillac. At the end of the story they took the car to be crushed.

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Finally, in a piece of advocacy journalism, Horner and Schechter highlighted the lack of an anti-texting and driving law in Texas. To grad the public’s attention they found people who’d lost love ones to distracted driving, got on a bus with them, looked for distracted drivers on the highway and then had the families write those drivers letters about the ultimate cost their families paid to distracted driving. This story has become part of galvanizing force in Austin for the many groups looking to get a law on the books.

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Submitted by David Schechter.

Headliners Foundation