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WCCO Duck Dog: Station finally breaks silence on botched report

James Schugel may be in the dog house, but WCCO is leaping to his defense.
James Schugel may be in the dog house, but WCCO is leaping to his defense.

After issuing dozens of "no comments" to City Pages, WCCO-TV has finally broken its silence on the controversial Duck/Dog story -- which aired October 31 -- with a memo from management.

David Brauer at MinnPost has the memo from News Director Mike Caputa, who admits the station got it wrong when it thought a man at a Chinatown meat market said he sold "dog" when really he said "duck."

The memo also maintains that I-Team reporter James Schugel, who botched the story, will not be fired.

Among other things, the memo confirms the word from our source within the newsroom that the man on the other end of the phone told WCCO that he didn't speak English, but Schugel proceeded with the interview anyway:

When we called the market, the person we spoke to said he didn't speak English, but then gave an interview in English. We asked him if the market sold dogs, and we believed he answered in the affirmative. We now believe that he said, "Duck."

The internal memo does not constitute a public apology and seems more designed to quiet complaints from within the newsroom. As for when WCCO might come clean with its viewers about the mistake, our source in the newsroom has a theory about the silence:

"I have a feeling New York is waiting till the end of the book, because we're obviously dealing with the rating period."

Here's the memo:

There seem to be some inaccurate rumors on the subject of our dog breeder investigation. I wanted to take a moment to set the record straight.

First, no one should let unfounded rumors, anonymous sources or social media comments guide his or her actions or beliefs about WCCO-TV or any of its employees.

Much of what is being said by people that are supposedly inside are absolutely false. For instance, no one is being terminated.

So that none of you are guided by misinformation, here is what we know:

  • As we reported, Minnesota Certificate of Veternary Inspection reports show the breeder, Kathy Bauck, sold nearly 1400 dogs after her USDA license to sell was terminated in August 2010.
  • Of those nearly 1400 dogs, on 12 separate occasions, over period of approximately a year, a total of 158 dogs was shipped to the address in New York, where there are two business establishments, including a market, as we reported.
  • Bauck said she put the wrong address for this location. According to her, she listed the wrong address all 12 times she sent dogs to that location. As we reported, we contacted the owner of the pet shop that Bauck said the dogs were supposed to go to, and that owner told us he hadn't done any business with Bauck for over a year.
  • We sent a news camera to both establishments in New York and found no evidence of dogs at either and reported that in our story.
  • When we called the market, the person we spoke to said he didn't speak English, but then gave an interview in English. We asked him if the market sold dogs, and we believed he answered in the affirmative. We now believe that he said, "Duck."
  • Since our report and a full two months after the last shipment of dogs, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets searched the markets for dogs and found no evidence to sustain the claim that they were being sold at that location. It is interesting to note that this same establishment was searched by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets last December, based on a similar complaint, and there was no evidence to sustain that claim.
  • Upon learning of the actions of Kathy Bauck, the USDA has permanently revoked her license to sell dogs.

In the end, we don't yet know what truly happened to the dogs except that they were shipped to the location we reported on. These are all facts that warranted a compelling and important news story. In view of this, I suggest we ignore the rumors and innuendo and keep doing the outstanding work we are known for here at WCCO-TV.

Thanks,
Michael Caputa

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