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por falcao, em 30.09.03
DÁ QUE PENSAR

Melinda Semadeni had a minute and a half to fill. It was April 6, 2001, a Friday, and the twenty-six-year-old reporter at WVIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Virginia, needed a story. At the morning news meeting, someone mentioned Jesse Sheckler.



Sheckler, the forty-nine-year-old owner of a successful garage in nearby Greene County, had been indicted a month earlier along with four other men on a charge of conspiracy to possess cocaine. The Greene County Record, a 3,200-circulation weekly in Stanardsville, the county's only incorporated town, had reported the charges the day before. Reporters in nearby Charlottesville, the largest city in central Virginia with a population of about 45,000, made a habit of watching the Record for tips. Semadeni was assigned to the story.



She could not have known it, but a slow spiral had begun in which a series of mistakes, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities would tarnish a young reporter's career, send an innocent man into an emotional tailspin, and produce the largest libel award in Virginia history. The media crowd in this small southern city is still wondering how a straightforward news story became a journalistic cautionary tale.





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