WCCO News Director Defends Chinatown Dog Meat Story in Memo to Staff

By Andrew Gauthier 

Since running its notorious Chinatown dog meat story on October 31st, WCCO has stubbornly stuck with a “no comment” when asked about the incident.

The CBS O&O has remained so tight-lipped about the story that station management has reportedly refused to talk about it with staff.  That changed today.

WCCO news director Mike Caputa (pictured) issued a memo today defending the story and implying that the meat market may actually have possessed dog meat at some point.

In the memo, first published by MinnPost, Caputa assures his staff that “no one is being terminated” and says that the station now believes the meat market worker said “duck” instead of “dog,” while speaking with reporter James Schugel.  Full memo inside…

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.

Michael Caputa

Last week, Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages ran a story in which a station source predicted that Caputa, who was named news director less than a year ago, would “make heads roll before his head rolls.”

No word yet on whether WCCO will issue a public statement now that Caputa’s memo is out. >Update: A WCCO spokesperson told TVSpy that “the memo speaks for itself” and the station has no comment beyond it.

Read a transcript of the notorious story here.