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WBTV’s Whisenant pulls a scoop from menace

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.
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- WBTV
“Next thing I saw, my viewfinder was full of a GMC grille," says WBTV's David Whisenant.

A close call turned into a scoop this week for WBTV (Channel 3) Salisbury bureau chief David Whisenant.

He was part of the media scrum Tuesday outside the home of Sandy Parsons, whose adoptive daughter Erica was reported missing July 30, two years after she disappeared. Whisenant was across the street with his camera as Parsons and his wife loaded a U-Haul truck to move away from the neighborhood and media scrutiny.

Parsons pulled out of his driveway, made a wide turn and drove toward the spot where Whisenant, Salisbury Post reporter Shavonne Potts and WCCB (Channel 18) photographer Darnell Hart were standing. Potts and Hart scattered, but Whisenant was peering into the camera and didn’t immediately realize where the truck was headed.

“Next thing I saw, my viewfinder was full of a GMC grille,” says Whisenant, WBTV’s Salisbury bureau chief for 21 years. After the truck lurched to a stop, he took down his gear and slowly retreated. He could see Parsons glaring at him through the windshield.

Wednesday morning, a neighbor tipped him that the U-Haul was back. He debated whether it was worth going out there again, but decided to swing by.

He set up his camera when Parsons came out of the house and walked toward him.

“I was a little worried frankly,” Whisenant says. “He got closer and said, ‘Cut your camera off. I want to talk to you a minute behind the camera.’ ”

Parsons started with an apology about the truck. “That is not me, that is not my character. I was frustrated by the cameras, the helicopters, all you guys being out here all the time,” Parsons said in the story on wbtv.com.

“He apologized three or four times,” Whisenant says. “Then he said, ‘I didn’t realize it was you until I got out of the truck and was looking at you. I think you guys do a great job. I think you’re the only TV station that’s been fair.’ ”

Parsons began talking about aspects of the case. He said the knives that were taken from the house during a search were his from his job as a butcher at Food Lion. He said he and his family had been getting death threats.

Then he lifted his “Duck Dynasty” T-shirt to show a barbed-wire tattoo with the initials of his children’s name on his arm. “He pointed at EP for Erica and he said, ‘I raised her and I love her and I still do,’ ” Whisenant says.

After 18 minutes, they shook hands and Parsons returned to his yard where a no-trespassing sign is up.

“That’s the last thing I thought would happen,” Whisenant says, “when I went out there.”

Media Movers

Morning anchor Kellie Patterson departs from WCNC (Channel 36) after three years. She’s the former University of South Carolina cheerleader who competed on “Amazing Race” and worked for WLTX (Channel 19) in Columbia. ...

Joining WSOC (Channel 9) as a general assignment reporter is Jenna Deery, who comes from the Cox sister station in Dayton, Ohio. Derry grew up in Orlando and has a communications degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. ...

Matt Harris and Ramona Holloway sign a multi-year extension with Greater Media Charlotte for their afternoon “Matt and Ramona” show on WLNK-FM (“Link” 107.9). They started in Charlotte in 2001. ... Bryson Foster of Concord will be featured on the “MDA Show of Strength Telethon,” 9 p.m. Sunday, Channel 9. Foster, 13, MDA’s 2013 national goodwill ambassador, is affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy. ...

Former News 14 Carolina reporter Elise Esasky joins Blumenthal Performing Arts as communications manager. ... Tribble Reese, who played arena football for Carolina Speed, stars in “The New Atlanta,” debuting 9 p.m. Sept. 17 on Bravo. He is part of a group of up-and-comers trying to make it in Atlanta. ... Channel 9 has started providing mini newscasts three times daily to Clear Channel radio stations in Charlotte. ...

WZGV’s (ESPN 730) Lanny Ford will do special “Bottom Line” show broadcasts at 10 a.m. Saturdays before UNC Charlotte 49er home football games, which begin Saturday. He’ll broadcast from the corporate village in front of Jerry Richardson Stadium. Handling sideline coverage will be Bobby Rosinski. Coincidentally, his dad, ESPN’s Bill Rosinski, was on the first Panthers broadcast. ... “Golf Shop Radio Show” with Mark Greenhalgh will move from Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday on WZGV during football season. Panthers broadcaster Mick Mixon will be a guest this week. ...

Jessica Robertson of A&E’s hit series “Duck Dynasty” will entertain at the Southern Women’s Show, 1 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Charlotte Convention Center. ... “Our Vanishing Americana,” the nostalgic 2009 WTVI (Channel 42) documentary by Davidson attorney and author Mike Lassiter and produced by Scott Galloway of Susie Films has been picked up for distribution on public TV stations nationwide this season.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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