The Importance of Viewer Tips

As I mark my 20th year at WFSB this summer, I was recently asked about the role viewers play in news stories.     The answer:  a huge role.

Many of the stories we break come from tips from our viewers.     People who watch Eyewitness News  really are everywhere, and we always appreciate an e-mail or a phone call.   Sometimes tips seem a little wacky, but often they lead to legitimate stories.    

I’ll give you an example.  One of the reports that I filed for my last station (WWMT)  20 years ago, so impressed the news director here at WFSB, he hired me.    

It started with a phone call from a couple in Bangor, Michigan,   who told a tale of an old woman who had dozens  of wild dogs who romped and defecated throughout their neighborhood.     The odd part of the call was that the couple claimed the woman burned the dogs in her yard when they died.    

            If I look like I’m smelling something hideous, it’s because I am

It seemed crazy to me, but our crew took a ride out there and we were revolted by what we found.     There were dogs everywhere, barking and running alongside our news car.    The property reeked of feces and a stench I could not identify.   The old woman spoke to us on camera, saying her neighbors were complainers and that she loved the dogs and cared for them.   Then she took us to the burn barrel.

                                      The woman and her burn barrel

I don’t know if we have burn barrels in Connecticut, but they seemed to be everywhere in parts of West Michigan in the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek area.    They look like a big industrial drum and people burn trash and yard waste and in this woman’s case, dogs.

I nearly gagged when the woman showed me the charred carcasses that filled the burn barrel, and then she explained that she burned them when they died…and in some cases when they were very sick, yet barely alive.

Our report on the news that night led to the woman being charged and the dogs taken away.      And it all began with a tip, from a viewer.     

I thank you for all the tips Channel 3 viewers have sent me over the past two decades, and feel free to send more my way at dennis.house@wfsb.com

You can watch the 20th anniversary piece put together by Denise D’Ascenzo right here:


2 replies »

  1. This is just a horrific story and the pictures are even worse,if this woman loved and cared for the dogs she would have given them a designated burial site in the ground.It’s just so cruel to have burned them before they’re actually deceased,No one in their right mind does this type of thing to beautiful animals,I rescue all of my pets so this is really disturbing to me.Great reporting Dennis,sorry you had to encounter that for a fairly new journalist at that time,I commend you for that.


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