My report at KOMU this Friday was a different experience. I didn't report on a new bridge or the next summer fair; I did a story that was serious and required all my thought, energy and humanity. I'll give you a synopsis. A pastor from a small town in mid-Missouri called Moberly was accused by a sixteen-year-old girl of kidnapping and molestation. The girl reported that the pastor kidnapped her from a gas station in Moberly and drove her to a motel in Columbia, where he molested her.
This Tuesday, the Boone County Court ruled that Pastor James is not guilty of the molestation charge. Now, a different county court is working on the kidnapping charge, and has not reached a verdict just yet. Nevertheless, the pastor's family is ecstatic that their dad and husband was cleared of the molestation charges. Caleb Wilson is the Pastor's nineteen-year-old son. He called KOMU because he wants mid-Missouri to know that his father is innocent.
I was the reporter assigned to the story. I drove to the Free Will Baptist Church in Moberly to hear what Caleb had to say about his dad's innocence. However, Caleb did put some restrictions on what I was allowed to shoot. Caleb said the church, which was basically a small home which also functioned as a religious school, was too messy so he didn't want me to film him inside. I was perfectly fine with that request, so I interviewed Caleb outside.
Caleb told me how thrilled he was that his dad was found innocent, but I had no other interviews besides this and little video because I was restricted from filming in the church or even Caleb's house. I decided to focus on collecting good interviews instead. I convinced Caleb to give me his grandma's phone number. He did, and she gave me a sincere account of her nervousness on the day of the trial.
But, I didn't realize the importance of the story until it was all over. While I was working on the story, I was too focused on thinking what video I needed, what questions needed to be asked, where the church was in Moberly, and whether the police officers would ever call me back, to even think about the significance of this story for the Wilson family and this small religious community in Moberly.
When I walked off the set after reporting the story at the top of the 6 p.m. newscast, I had a text message on my phone. I assumed it was one of my roommates telling me I said the wrong word or looked cross-eyed into the camera - the usual jokes they tease me about - but it wasn't them. Caleb Wilson texted me. I was surprised. The text was simple - he thanked me for covering the story. At that point I realized what this story did for Caleb's family. For months, Mid-Missouri wasn't sure if Caleb's dad, Pastor Wilson, was guilty or innocent of these charges. The courts decided this week that he is innocent, and Caleb, as the oldest son in his family, wanted to make sure his family's name was cleared of these dirty allegations.
Just by broadcasting this one short story, Caleb's family can move on from these terrible couple of months and rebuild their family and their father's reputation.
I wonder if Caleb didn't text message me thanking me for helping his family, would I have ever realized the story's significance? I don't know, but I'm happy I get free texting.