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Billy Graham Resurrected on Live TV
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Rev. Billy Graham is a man beloved and honored by many — many faiths, many cultures, many backgrounds, many people worldwide. What he has seen in 92 years for an ordinary person is astounding. What he has done in those 92 years is nothing short of extraordinary. I say that to illustrate that I scribe with a certain panache and snark regardless of the topic at hand. Now that we have that understanding...

Something funny happened to Rev. Graham while he was at the hospital for difficulties with pneumonia last week — he was resurrected from the dead. Fitting, right? News spread like a Texas wildfire when Rev. Graham was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. People began praying for his safe return home and tweeted every step of the way. Rumors abounded, namely when WBTV 3 (CBS) announced that Rev. Graham had died. Only, he didn't. He was actually admitted into Asheville's Mission Hospital in stable condition; however, for some terrible reason, WBTV got word that the great evangelist had gone home to be with God.

Ironically, WBTV is in Rev. Graham's hometown of Charlotte, N.C. From the report in the Charlotte Observer:

Within 10 minutes of the original report, WBTV made an on-air correction. [WBTV's News Director Dennis] Milligan said the station planned to repeat the correction and apology on Saturday's late newscast and early news today. He said he was unable to find out Saturday what had been on the CBS network feed, but he said it could have been some kind of test or other content sent during downtime while the network was not providing programming. "Whatever was there obviously was not for publication," he said, and it was a mistake for the station to broadcast the news before confirming it.

I have given the wrong talking point during an interview before. I have read a commercial that should have ended its run two weeks prior. I have given a quote to a reporter that I discovered later wasn't true. I'm far from perfect, so believe me when I say that my stomach knotted like a Boy Scout attacked it. While on crack. Man, I felt for Milligan, the EP, the anchor, and whatever poor schlep first delivered this "news." Then, you must remember the unique individual in question.

A. Larry Ross, Graham's spokesman for three decades, acknowledged the apology in an email to the station. "He was very forgiving," Milligan said.

Personal sidenote: I know Mr. Ross. I consider him a friend and a mentor of mine in public relations. So, believe me, when the quote says that Rev. Graham was "very forgiving" for someone telling his hometown that he was dead although he could have been watching the news broadcast personally...he was. That forgiveness may have been the only thing to save someone's job and the station a whole lot of shame.

I'm a proud seminarian, so here's my :10 soapbox — Even in death, one act of kindness can offer someone life. Extraordinary. Fitting, once again.

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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