Update: Since originally publishing this post, another link has surfaced to the full report, written by Maschmedt herself. Apparently the Will Wadley story was only a brief waiting for the full report.
Indeed, the link to the Wadley verison now takes you to Maschmedt’s story.
And what do we learn in the full story? Contrary to what was reported earlier, we now learn that the fishermen never left the river side with the ID and did not appear in the video at least to give it to the reporter.
However, Maschmedt does say it was her who called the Anaconda police chief to come pick up the ID personally (and be on camera the whole time).
What’s left unclear is just how Maschmedt came upon the men on Sunday afternoon. The story glosses over that detail:
When we caught up with the fishermen on Sunday afternoon, they were just getting ready to turn in the ID. So we called Anaconda Police Chief Tim Barkell, who immediately came out to retrieve it.
(Replace the pronoun “we” in the text version with “I” and you have the script for the video version.)
So what happened? The way I see it, there are a couple possibilities. Either the anglers called the reporter and revealed that they’d found something in the water — which to my mind would mark them as die-hard NBC Montana viewers — or Maschmedt was working a Sunday shift with nothing else to do but tool up and down the Clark Fork looking for anything that might have had to do with Salle’s disappearance.
Both of these seem unlikely to me, but I cannot think of any other possibilities that don’t make me sound like a conspiracy theorist.
No matter how she found the fishermen, Maschmedt injected herself into the story by summoning police for the people she was interviewing for a story.
This was no typical interview. In a typical interview, it’s understood that the reporter arranged time to speak with the subject. The situation is artificial, but that artificiality is known to the readers or viewers.
In this case, Maschmedt had her interviews with the anglers, but then she manufactured their meeting with the police chief by summoning him for the fishermen.
Rather than being the public’s eye recording what was happening — a reporter, Maschmedt orchestrated the meeting, putting reality on her schedule and in front of her camera.
Tonight, reporter Whitney Bermes turned me on to a story involving NBC Montana reporter Lauren Maschmedt on the discovery today of a driver’s license belonging to a missing woman. Fishermen found the license along the Clark Fork near where a dead body — likely that of the missing woman — was found Saturday.
According to the report, the fishermen handed the ID to NBC Montana reporter Maschmedt, who then turned it over to authorities “to be used as evidence.”
There is a crucial difference this time. Maschmedt didn’t write the story herself; it’s bylined by Will Wadley of KECI. That’s good. It prevents the sort of conflict of interest the earlier situation represented.
However, it does possibly open Maschmedt to being called as a witness in later legal proceedings. Certainly police had to take a statement from her, I’m assuming, when she presented physical evidence in the case of a missing woman. (I suppose I don’t want to assume too much.)
And let’s not forget that this was not simply a good deed. Maschmedt made sure to document the whole situation for TV, as she noted on her journalist Facebook page:
still in shock over my story- not only did I come across fishermen who found evidence from a murder, I helped them get it to police, and caught it all on film. the ID for the missing Anaconda woman Tammy Salle was found near where her body was found confirming its her
Now, I don’t watch NBC — we can’t receive it over the antenna at my house in the middle of Bozeman of all places — but I’m fairly sure they would have trumpeted the fact that this new discovery was facilitated by an NBC reporter. I know I like it when the newspaper gets a good scoop.
I’m torn. Certainly, I support journalists being able to accept evidence of all sorts of things — leaked documents, classified materials and such. However, physical evidence relating to a criminal investigation — one of a kind items, like a murder weapon or dead woman’s license — something that you would be compelled to turn over to police and something that no shield law could keep in your hands…
Seems a bad path to walk down. Perhaps it would have been better in this case to follow the fishermen with her camera to watch as they turned the driver’s license over to authorities.