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It takes a certain kind of person to be an investigative reporter and Hank Phillippi Ryan is one person who was made for the job. Since 1988 Ryan has been an investigative reporter for Channel 7 News located downtown Boston. Ryan’s other talent consists of writing mystery novels. With four books published and awards won for her amazing writing one begins becomes amazed with Ryan’s busy life.

Her weeks consists of going out in the field to compile information for her packages and spending another part of her week working in the station editing her packages. After meeting with Ryan at Channel 7 I got to talk with Ryan personally about what life is like being an investigative reporter.

The first question that may come to one’s mind about Ryan’s investigations is how she finds out about these stories. “The stories are everywhere. Whether it’s a tip that comes in or a hunch or you read an article about a subject and you wonder if it really works,” said Ryan. Ryan always keeps her eyes open. “You have to be curious about everything and you have to be kind of cynical because your first reaction is generally ‘I bet that doesn’t work’ and then you have to be confident that you can find out the answers,” said Ryan. The process of getting a story can be a brutal one as Ryan explains some of the things she has gone through.

“I have had lots of doors slammed in my face, been hung up many times, yelled at threatened with lawsuits. It’s part of the territory. If it looks like someone is going to hit me I just make sure my camera is rolling. The toughest story is less often something that is physical threatening and more often someone just doesn’t want to tell you. I have been hot or freezing or bored waiting for someone. Not that it’s dangerous but mostly that you have to be persistent,” said Ryan

After asking Ryan the story that she was the proudest of she couldn’t name just one. “We found shocking flaws in the 911 system in which the state revamped the way it works. We found for years not one person of color on a federal jury pool and we found out why that was happening. We found major heart breaking in contractor homeowner system and the result of that three laws were passed and people got home out of foreclosure. We found recall notices not getting sent to schools and now school bus recall notices are getting to the schools. Don’t know how many lives you’re changing with the reports you do,” said Ryan.

What I have been bringing up at the end of each blog post is something about Channel 5’s investigative team. I would always compare the stories that Ryan did to Team 5 Investigates thinking that Ryan also watched their stories and tried to compete with them. When I asked the question if she watches Team 5 Investigates to keep up with what they are reporting, it was surprising when Ryan said no. “It’s not a very worthwhile situation to do, to take the time to see other reports. My job is already hard enough”, said Ryan. She mentioned that everyone was her competitor even the reporters she works with.

I told her that Team 5 Investigates comes out with a story a night and I asked why she only did one story a week. “Doing one report a week is astonishingly difficult beyond anything I can possible describe to you. It’s impossible. You can’t do a real investigative story every week and have it be high enough quality,” said Ryan. She then talked about how some of the stories she does aren’t even considered investigation stories. The reports like H1N1 products being frauds are what she calls consumer stories.

“In doing one story a week we have to juggle the topics. Some of my stories are consumer stories which are different levels of stories from a Hank Investigative. You can’t do investigative stories more than once a week. That means you are calling something investigative that isn’t,” said Ryan.

Through these blog posts there has only been on time that I was critical of Ryan. This was when she reported on fraud H1N1 companies for two weeks in a row. I was surprised the she didn’t chose a different topic the second week. When I asked her why she did this her response made complete sense.

“There are a lot of stories on H1N1. If there was any time to do stories about that it’s now. For the flu product story when are you going to do a story on that but now? One of the things we strive for is that our stories are that they aren’t only on the air when we find them but when they are timely and matter. The point isn’t to do a whole bunch of different stories, the point is to do stories that are relevant and stories that have a viewer befit. We want the viewer to learn something and change their lives,” said Ryan.

When putting these packages together it is just Ryan and her producer who work on the stories. Yet she does have to run stories past others. “My producer and I come up with the story ideas and then we will float them to the executive producer and news director and as a team come up with a plan that we think of stories we can offer and what stories they think they are important,” said Ryan.

For her age it is amazing of the amount of work she accomplishes. She has been with the station since 1982 and has been in the business since 1971 when she started out in radio. I asked Ryan if she was thinking about retirement after all these years of working hard. She said that her contract is up in two years and that she does enjoy the writing life. “I don’t know what I’ll do. It’s a real interesting transitional time,” said Ryan.

When the interview was just about complete I asked Ryan if she wanted to mention anything else. “You see that quote on my bulletin board?” I nodded my head as I leaned over in my chair and Ryan read it out loud. “What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail”. Then Ryan said, “That’s how I view the world.”

Hank Investigates this week about unpaid parking tickets. Ryan dug and found out that the city of Boston hasn’t been notifying certain state vehicles about their massive parking fines. After looking up several cars’ licenses plates Ryan told viewers how much money they owed in parking fines. One car owned more than $15,000. Ryan interviewed the Commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department who said that they don’t know who to send the bills to. Ryan saw one man in an army uniform get out of an illegally parked car with a government license plate. She went to speak to the army official who said that he was never notified about parking fines. Ryan dug deep about found a list showing not only federal but also state and law enforcement employees who parked illegally and were never even towed.  After doing the math, it added up to more than a million dollars in parking fines. Agencies that Ryan contacted said the individual driver is responsible for paying the parking tickets. After Ryan’s interview with the Commissioner he said that it is now on their screen and that they are going to fix it. Thanks to Ryan, Boston city officials are making sure that money owed is now being collected.    

An investigative piece that I know Ryan was excited about for when I interviewed her last week she told me that she had a really great package about to air. Indeed this investigation was a good one since there was an act of unfairness taking place as city officials got away with not paying fines and Ryan exploited them. A regular citizen doesn’t get away with not paying fines and usually their car get towed right away tacking on another $100 to their parking ticket. Meanwhile, people with the government plates are getting away with parking anywhere for free. It’s definitely unfair that certain people don’t get slammed with a bill. Ryan did have to put some extra elbow grease into this investigation since she had to go all around the city to find actual government cars that were illegally parked and then look into their ticket records. Ryan had good interviewees, the Commissioner of Transportation and an army officer who got to tell his side of the story. The outcome of this report was great as officials are now making sure no one gets away with not paying fines. This week I did not look to see what Channel 5 News investigated since when I interviewed Ryan she said that she doesn’t pay attention to their stories and mainly just spends her time concentrating on her own pieces. So for that reason this blog shouldn’t waste its time on talking about another Channel. More on my interview with Ryan will take place next blog post. Meanwhile, this week’s investigation made a huge difference and will go down in Ryan’s collection of effective investigation reports.

This week Hank Ryan investigated flu cleaning services who claim that they can rid ones home from H1N1. Ryan sets up a hidden camera and has a salesman come in to give a estimation on how much money it will cost to rid the home of H1N1. After doing some research Ryan realizes that these salesmen from the cleaning companies are lying. Ryan interviews Dr. Lauren Smith from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health who states that it is unnecessary to have someone come in to decontaminate ones home. Ryan finds out that to get H1N1 one needs to come into direct contact with the virus and that the virus can only live 2 to 8 hours on a contaminated surface. So as the salesman is making his pitch in front of the hidden camera he lies by saying he will come back next week and kill everything there…well this is impossible since everything would already be dead by next week without his help. The salesman was then asked if the place would be sterilized in which he said that it would after he did the full cleaning. Dr. Smith said that’s not a reasonable thing to promise and it’s something that could not be accomplished. Ryan states that the final estimate for the job would have cost $500 according to the salesman. Ryan then finds other services who are a rip off as they say that sanitization should be done every season and another company says that the virus lasts forever unless you kill it. These companies are charging up to $1785 for their cleaning services. According to Ryan’s interviewee, Dr. Smith, it’s a waste of money. Ryan ends her package by stating that the Department of Public Health says a regular cleaning of your home is all you need to do and that doctors say the best weapon to protect against H1N1 is to wash your hands.

This investigation is very similar to Ryan’s last investigation about companies selling fraud flu products. This week Ryan stuck with the same topic but just approached it from a different angle. Perhaps Ryan thought that this was a serious topic that needed to shed light on it so she took the risk and did another report relating to H1N1. We won’t know why she chose to report on the same topic two weeks in a row until I interview her. Ryan had a good source for her investigation, a worker from the department of health, yet it would have been nice to hear another’s point of view, perhaps from one who has actually used a rip off cleaning service. Ryan did do something that I haven’t seen her do in any of her previous reports and that is set up a hidden camera catching these people lying. It added a whole other dynamic to the report as one actually witnesses this guy lying. Ryan’s competition, Channel 5 Investigation Team, investigated on topics this week such as, “Stimulus Money for Education Running out”, “Nonprofit Execs Pocket Large Salaries Perks” and “Toyota Faces another Recall”. A variety of topics done by Channel 5 but none are about the swine flu. Overall, even though Ryan’s report was kind of a repeat from last week’s report, she provides some helpful information that could save people big bucks.

 The Boston Globe’s editor Martin Baron told students at Emerson College that online readership is the highest its ever been. “I’m optimistic because if you look at media at large it’s exploding,” said Baron.

Baron, along with Steven Ainsley, publisher of the Boston Globe, answered questions in an open forum last Thursday at Emerson’s Semel Theater. Earlier this year The Globe was $80 million in debt and was put up for sale.The two men talked about the major struggles the Boston Globe has gone through this past year yet they gave students hope as they talked about the expansion of media.

The Globe’s website, Boston.com, has more than five million visitors a month. Baron said everyone focuses on the cutbacks, but the media is growing and becoming more creative and dramatic. “The readership of journalism everywhere is greater than it ever was. For the young people getting into the field the opportunities are expanding not contracting,” said Baron.

Ainsley talked about the internet becoming the main source of news. “If this was K-12 we are only in fourth grade. We got a long way to go. The whole industry is wrestling with this paid vs unpaid on the internet,” said Ainsley.

Ainsley described the day in which he knew The Boston Globe was in trouble. “I remember the day. On April 2nd after several meetings with the financial team, The Globe was going to lose $80 to $85 million this year,” said Ainsley. The next step he had to take was to meet with labor unions to re-open contracts.

“It was very difficult at that moment. We had a meeting with the union and knew the news of The Globe’s dire situation would make it out to all of our employes and eventually nationwide. I was not concerned about the professional embarrassment,” said Ainsley.

After failing to make major budget cuts the parent company, The New York Times, talked about a possible closing of the paper. “It was extraordinary difficult to stand in front of people who care a great deal about the newspaper and tell them that if we don’t make cuts we were about to make that the newspaper will cease to be,” said Ainsley.

Ainsley worked closely with the unions and was proud of how they handled the difficult situation. “The leadership of the union did a terrific job in communications. Many unions took up on our offer by signing papers to look at our books and confirm our numbers,” said Ainsley.

Before this newspaper took a sharp turn downward, Ainsley brought in a team of consultants in the last year. Ainsley and Baron disagreed over this decision as Ainsley thought it went successfully and Baron didn’t want these people in his newsroom.

Baron was concerned with the outside consultants and how they didn’t understand what it took to do professional journalism. “I saw other newspapers go through severe reductions and didn’t maintain quality and I thought it was very important to maintain our quality,” said Baron.

The Boston Globe had to also make changes to the paper itself. Due to fewer resources Baron decided to shut down The Globe’s foreign bureaus. “We had to face reality. If we were to keep them open then that would have meant less local coverage and that’s the core,” said Baron.

The Globe also had to scale back on national coverage except Washington. Since Washington and Boston are politically connected, Baron thought it would be best to keep the bureaus open. “Readers don’t have expectation that The Globe will cover foreign and national themselves. We have to allocate resources to benefit readers,” said Baron.

Ainsley talked about another way The Globe made major savings. “A critical success that didn’t get much press was the rate hikes for home circulation and for a single paper. I think we are going to see more and more consumers paying for the newspaper rather than ads being the main profit,” said Ainsley.

Ainsley and Baron said they have no idea what the future has in store. “As of today we are in pretty good shape,” said Ainsley. Baron said, “We just have to live with uncertainty. I have no expectation anymore. It’s hard to think of surprises because everything seems to happen.”

With all the news erupting over H1N1, Hank Phillippi Ryan decided to take a different angle on the flu virus. Last week Ryan’s investigation aired about the flu’s frauds. This report was about companies cashing in on people’s fears of the flue as they put out false advertisements saying that their product will help prevent H1N1. Ryan found a handful of products that advertised false claims. The first one she talks about is a website advertising an herbal tea that states “prevents H1NI” and can “make a difference in curing it”. Ryan interviews Federal Trade Commission, Richard Cleland who states how this product is a rip off.  Ryan found another website that was selling bottles of pills for 10 dollars and claimed that they were “Swine Flu Antiviral Support Tablets”. Ryan also interviews Gary Coody who works for the Food and Drug Administration and says how these products could have a reverse effect on people and could actually cause them harm. Ryan finds even more flu fraud products such as anti-flu shampoo and a UV light wand that so call destroys the virus. Ryan states that federal investigators are giving companies orders to stop these false claims and said that there are now over 70 companies who have been given this order. Ryan even found products that we think are approved but really aren’t. Tamiflu is FDA analyzed but the pills contain no flu medicine at all. Ryan states that the Feds say most of the websites took down the false claims but there are still more out there that consumers need to be cautious about.

What really adds strength into Ryan reports are the people she interviews. She has two great sources here; one from the Federal Trade Commission and one from Food and Drug Administration. Also Ryan states throughout her report that health officials disagree with these products claims. This makes one think if she actually talked to health officials or just got their response from another source. Regardless, Ryan already has two professional sources who know what they are talking about. It would have been nice if Ryan found an actual consumer who fell for these claims and bought the product. Usually, Ryan is pretty good about bringing in the average person who has been effected by the topic of her investigation. After taking a glimpse at Ryan’s competition, Team 5 Investigates, their last three stories were about the state betraying a family’s trust by cutting down their tress, deadbeat lottery agents owe state millions and the shocking treatment pigs go through at pig farms. There weren’t any H1N1 investigations like Ryan’s which means that Ryan definitely has a knack for finding one of a kind stories to investigate.  Although she did take a topic that is being over reported on she found a completely new, different angle on it and that takes talent.

 

A cell phone. It’s a completely necessary device but what isn’t necessary is the high bill one gets every month. This week, Hank Ryan did an investigation piece about cell phone secretes and how easy it could be for one to lower their monthly bill. Most people just get the bill and accept the price for what it is and don’t even know that they could be saving big by re-configuring their cell phone plan. Ryan starts of this investigation by talking to cell phone guru Nick Lindwedel who tells us how easy it is to lower one’s cell phone bill. Ryan explains that you don’t have to change your carrier or cancel your contract but all you have to do is analyze your usage. Ryan was able to find a person who agreed to a phone bill experiment. Kelsey pays $200 a month for her cell phone bill. After Nick looked over her bill he found that Kelsey was paying for more minutes than she ever used. After lowering the monthly minutes, Kelsey could end up saving $360 a year with no penally for changing her plan mid contract. Ryan found another person to participate in this cell phone bill make over and found that this woman could be saving $120 a year if she got rid of her unnecessary phone insurance. Towards the end of her report, Ryan lists several helpful tips that will help viewers lower their cell phone bills; “Don’t waste your cell phone minutes checking voice mail, do that from a land line, don’t sign up for a new long-term plan just to get a new phone, and drop the insurance on your phone.” Ryan gives some final helpful advice by saying that one should check their bill because phone companies are not obligated to notify one on when they can save money. The investigative team from Channel 5 News (Ryan’s rival) did a report this week on Governor Deval Patrick giving pay raises to supervisor who work for the turnpike. Nothing wrong with this story but just to put it into perspective with Ryan’s; it’s more political oriented than Ryan’s which is not unusual. Investigative Team 5 takes on a more political edge while Ryan takes on an array of reports.

Just about everyone has a cell phone these days. This wasn’t a heavy investigation piece in which Ryan exploited someone for their wrong doings. Ryan proves that investigative reporting doesn’t always have to be that way. This investigation was probably one of the easiest ones for Ryan since she didn’t have to do much digging.  Material doesn’t alway have to be hard hitting and “juicy” for it to affect a great amount of people. I actually have a personal experience that relates greatly to Ryan’s report. My mother called me the other day so proud of herself as she ended up calling the cell phone company and asked how she can lower her bill (this was before Ryan’s report aired). To her surprise she was able to knock our bill down $30 less a month after finding out that we had more minutes than our family plan needed. Point of my story, it works! One can go ahead and test Ryan’s advice and will most likely find that they are paying way to much for extra things they don’t even need in their plan. It’s an investigative report that is so simple yet Ryan still tackles it for she knows it will help a lot of people save money. It was an excellent idea of Ryan to find two people who were willing to give this a test. One thing that could have been done better in this report was if Ryan actually talked to a representative from one of the major cell phone companies and ask them how many people are over spending. It probably would have been a hard interview to get since no cell phone carrier wants to admit that people are loosing money but it would have been nice to see Ryan make an effort. Instead, the main source of information is coming from this random cell phone guru guy. No dirt really had to be dug in this piece yet it will probably be one of Ryan’s top reports that ends up helping everyone save money.

It’s a life saving investigation. One that involves the lives of children. On October 20th Hank Ryan’s investigative report aired about bus recalls. It was an alarming investigation as Ryan found out that a bus company called TCI hasn’t been sending out recall notices to school districts like Attleboro. The US Department of Transportation demanded TCI to appear in a public hearing to see if they met 15 recall requirements. To aviod a hearing the bus company made a settlement and paid the feds $20,000. They also sent recall notices to 6,000 buses and even paid for their repairs. In this report Ryan interviewed a slew of people including the Super-attendant of Haverhill Public Schools, who was upset since he knew nothing about the bus recalls due to no notices. Also Ryan interviewed an upset parent of the school and Ryan managed to dig deep by looking into TCI’s recall documents. As Ryan brought light to this major bus problem, some busses were taken off the road for repairs and she could have even prevented a major accident from happening. Children will have a safer ride to school now that TCI is under the watchful eye of Ryan.

An investigation piece that affects a lot of people. One thing that I noticed about Ryan’s reports is that they all relate to the greater public. It’s not just a small group of people who are benefiting from Ryan’s reports. Yet, she chooses a huge issue that affects the majority of people. There are tons of parents and children within our community that Ryan knows will be interested in hearing the findings of this bus recall report. After looking briefly at other channels reports, no one reported on TCI’s problem of not sending out recall notices. Boston.com did write an article on this exact problem and Channel 7 was the only one who investigated and aired this story on t.v. The article from theBoston Globe came out on October 19th while Ryan’s aired the 20th. I wonder if this was a collaborative report. News that relates to the majority and news that only Ryan investigates: this is why Ryan stands in her field. I wonder if Ryan has looked into other bus companies besides TCI.   

The Boston Globe’s Article:

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/10/19/school_bus_manufacturer_to_recall_small_buses/

Hank Ryan’s Report:

http://www1.whdh.com/features/articles/hank/BO127532/

  Investigative reporting. It’s what journalist were born to do. I saw an ad for Hank Phillippi  Ryan’s report and behind the flashy headlines and her serious strut down to the end of the camera, I saw news that matters. Her investigative reports have won her a handful of prestigious awards and most important, have helped better the community. So there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to be the reporter that I follow for seven weeks for a blogging assignment in my journalism 101 class. A broadcast journalism major at Emerson College, I am drawn to investigative reporting. Since 1872 Ryan has been with Boston’s Channel 7 News and now she has segments a couple times a week in which she investigates the wrong doings within the Boston community.

Hopefully, by writing these blog postings on Ryan’s reports my readers will have a better understand of investigative journalism. I want my readers to know why it is so important for newspapers and news shows to have investigative journalist part of their staff. I also hope that readers will get involved with investigative reports by telling an investigative reporter when they witness something that is unfair. Ryan isn’t the only investigative reporter in the Boston area and we should be very thankful that Boston is actually covered in reporters committed to the common good. Sharing the spot light on channel 7 News is Jonathan Hall who is also an investigative journalist. Outside of channel 7 News there is a whole team of investigative reporters on channel 5 News Boston. At that station they have a bit of a larger team with respected names like Janet Wo, Susan Wornick and a few other reporters. Each have a beat like politics, consumer corruption and  other popular topics. Ryan takes on consumer edge and a vast range of investigation beats. A little different than channel 5 News, with a smaller investigative staff and flashier reports, channel 7 News offers some verity and new traditions. 

Ryan’s recent investigation called “Driven to Anger” a report about commuters paying their parking at Quincy’s MBTA parking lot and then getting slammed with a parking ticket. A report in which Ryan sets up nicely bringing us into a life of a commuter  who puts their three dollars in a slot assigned to their parking number. Then when they come back off the fairy an orange ticket is left stuffed under the windshield wiper. An array of interviews and paper records that Ryan digs to get, really adds to this report. From going to LAZ, the company in charge of the parking lot and to interviewing commuters to getting the actually copies of their filed complaints, Ryan covers all angles in this story. These angles, this effort are the things that will call for change in these commuter’s futures.

After scrolling through channel 5 News investigations, their stories seem to investigate politics and are sparkled with only a few stories that directly involve the people and their problems. Nothing wrong with political investigations and channel 5 News does have more investigative stories that are aired every day. I think, was there a reason behind me choosing channel 7 News and to follow one of their investigators? Channel 5 News does have more reporters and a lot more investigation reports airing. But to me, investigative reporting is investigative reporting, meaning no matter what station it’s coming from, who has the flashier titles, the larger team, the reports are still about going out into the community and contributing to public good….and to me thats all that matters. So here is goes…a plunge into the investigative reporting world with Hank Phillippi Ryan…stay tuned and stay posted.

In front of a crowd of Emerson College students and faculty, Alex Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the author of Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy, spoke about the media. “My belief is that journalism is about truth…the greatest agent of change is truth,” said Jones. But Jones wasn’t at Emerson to give a speech about truth.I want to make the case for dispassion… If truth stops the world will be a difficult one.” Jones stated, “If the institution loses ethnical standards then they will slip away.”

 

In the opening of his speech last Thursday in front of about 150 people, Jones mentioned a recent phone call he received from a journalist in Italy. This journalist told Jones, “Italian journalists are literally in fear of their lives.” Jones responded to this story by talking about how free press is a fragile creature and how this rare commodity is in danger. “What is happening in Italy is that practicing truth is having a tough time,” Jones stated.

 

Jones took his listeners back into the history of the news. “Before the printing press news was kept tight…then when the telegraph came time and distance limits collapsed,” told Jones. “With these innovations of technology all of the sudden news business was a business with its main purpose to make money.” 

 

With the boom of this business Jones talked about how the newspaper created values and built institutions like the New York Time with their main purpose was to bound us and made us feel like a community. “Newspapers told what was happening but people weren’t that interested. They are more interested in the Red Sox, Britney Spears, and comics…The people who bought the newspaper for that reason subsidized the main purpose,” said Jones.

 

“I welcome the digital age…but I don’t want to see anything happen is to the values that feed democracy,” stated Jones. With that, Jones talked about values journalist should have. “Objectivity is about dispassion…what changes the world, changes minds…An objective journalist lets results show,” said Jones. 

 

Jones discussed journalism ethics and stated,  “The difficulty when it come to ethics, when you have a piece of information when the president begs you not to publish it…when sphere the ethical code should apply…you have obligations as a citizen.” Jones said one should not forget about the Human hat and not to leave humanity behind. 

 

In his book, Jones talks more about journalism ethics. “No profession does more to own up to publicity to its ethical lapses than the battered corps of traditional journalism, especially newspaper journalist”(Jones, 103). Jones continues in his book by discussing how this kind of journalism ethics is very much at risk as news organizations are moving rapidly toward “the more elastic standards of tabloid journalism and nonobjective news coverage” (Jones 103).

 

In the closing of his speech Jones stated,“You’re getting into a job that’s a powerful job…you need to be tough, kind, ruthless…need to be all these given things…this is the glory about being a journalist…power comes with a set of obligations and you get to play God and when you do play God you have to be real careful.”


hello everyone…welcome to my first blog!

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