Update on KFBB report of shooting

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I confirmed with the Great Falls Police Department that Officer Supalla was NOT injured in the shooting incident in Shelby last month.

Summary: On April 22nd, GFPD officers went to Shelby to assist with a hostage situation involving an armed man. The man fired shots at the officers, injuring two of them (not critically, thank goodness). Officer Supalla was NOT one of the two. Officer Supalla was the one who shot and killed the suspect – a sad but likely necessary action which almost certainly saved lives. More details here.

KFBB reported on Friday, May 3rd, that Officer Supalla (and he alone, apparently) was the officer who was injured, and said that his “condition is not yet known at this time.” KFBB also apparently doesn’t know that Supalla is the officer who took down the armed man.

So – as expected – KFBB did indeed screw up yet again.

Look, I understand the challenge of reporting news in a relatively small community — in the world of media markets, Great Falls ranks way down near the bottom of the market-size ranking. There are 210 markets – with New York City being #1, Los Angeles #2, and so on down the line, with Great Falls coming in at #192. So of course we get fresh-out-of-school reporters with very little experience – it’s not a “fault” of Great Falls, nor is it a fault of the new reporters. Small markets like Great Falls are where reporters begin their careers and learn (hopefully).

But KFBB for years and years has apparently done little or nothing to train or mentor these young reporters, and never seems to hire a more senior, experienced news director or reporter to provide mentorship and training. The result, sadly, is stuff like this.

KFBB’s track record with facts and numbers (facts and facts and facts and facts and sensitivity and such) over the years is pretty sketchy.

I’ll even predict that KFBB’s current article – which states unequivocally that “The Great Falls Police Officer shot in the Shelby stand-off on Monday, April 22nd, has been identified as Senior Police Officer Kevin Supalla” (screenshot) – won’t be corrected, and KFBB won’t even acknowledge the mistake. Unless, of course, someone at KFBB happens to read this (posted at 10:51 p.m. on Saturday, May 4th).

My 10 years at KRTV, which went a long way in educating me about the news, the process, the reporters, the hiring, the fact-checking, etc. And here’s the difference: KRTV hires the same kind of young reporters who are newly-graduated – but also has several experienced reporters and managers who provide the training, mentorship, and oversight that these “kids” need.

The bottom line: you probably should not trust KFBB as a primary source of news. Turn first to KRTV, and then to the Tribune (although the Trib’s paywall is not doing them any favors), and also Jenn Rowell over at The Electric.

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