Tensions heated up, then cooled down, over an investigation by WXYZ-TV Detroit to see if police were misappropriating Christmas toys donated for underprivileged children.
The station angered police and some local residents when it put a tracking device into a toy that was taken home by a child, with a note instructing the recipient to contact WXYZ-TV to retrieve missing parts. After the station explained its investigation to police, the police went public, criticizing the station for not first confronting police management with their questions.
WXYZ-TV News Director Bill Carey, who is new at the station, said that the notion that they would confront police without any evidence was ridiculous but "we probably should not have provided a full explanation to police that, in retrospect, was premature and allowed the police department to engage in a one-sided public debate-in which it would be wrong for us to engage. If there's any lesson for us, it's that the circumstances surrounding newsgathering probably shouldn't be shared until the story airs on your station."
Particularly angry was local activist, Rev. Horace L. Sheffield III, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network. In a letter of complaint to the FCC, he wrote that he was annoyed that a "white suburban media outlet would deliberately decide to pick on Detroit's predominately black police department using an innocent black child to further its ratings."
But Carey said that he had a positive meeting with Sheffield and that more are likely.
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