Got News? Alert the surly, mordacious editor at editor@newsblues.com

Thursday, October 16, 2003

PAY-FOR-PLAY JOURNALISM 

 
$2,500
will get you a 4-6 minute interview on Tampa's WFLA-8-NBC morning show.

Most networks and local television stations have strict rules against pay-for-play journalism. But WFLA's "Daytime" is not shy about asking guests to pony up. They have turned the routine daily booking of guests into a commercial transaction.

"You pay us and we do what you want us to do," explained a show producer.

Eric Land, WFLA's president and general manager, sees no problem with the payments "from an ethics standpoint," saying: "It's not a news program, nor is it operated by the news department. It's a separate entertainment program."

As for the propriety of charging guests, Land said: "This television station has a history of breaking new ground. It gives some local advertisers who might not have production capabilities a chance to come on and demonstrate their product or service in a different format than 30-second spots."

No mention of payment is made during the interviews. At the end of the show, the words "the following segments were paid advertisements" appear in small type on the screen for about four seconds, along with a listing of the stories.

Somehow....we suspect....muzzled News Director Forrest Carr, who had always taken pride in his journalistic ethics, must be quietly gnashing his teeth at corporate boss Media General's latest turn. 

Howard Kurtz reports in today's Washington Post....

<<<>>>

STEAMED BROKAW

Gossipers Rush and Molloy report in today's NY Daily News that "Tom Brokaw is steamed at Maria Shriver. The NBC News anchor called his Dateline colleague and 'gave her a tongue-lashing' after her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, gave his first post-election interview to CBS anchor Dan Rather."

<<<>>>

Brokaw's fellow South Dakotan Pat O'Brien, who is set to anchor a portion of NBC's Olympics coverage next year, is said to be considering a run for the governorship of South Dakota.  Details.... 

<

WINDY COVERAGE

Heavy winds hampered local stations from covering the immediate aftermath of yesterday's Staten Island Ferry crash.

WCBS-2 broke in at 3:45 p.m. with a report on the crash from Ernie Anastos, followed soon after by short newsbreaks from other stations.

But images from the crash were hard to come by. WNYW-5-Fox got its helicopter in the air first, and WCBS soon used still images from WNYW's feed....without the Fox station's permission.

Others used footage...with permission...from WPIX-11-WB's chopper.

With the exception of NY 1 News (which is all-news), none of the local broadcast stations went wall-to-wall with the story until 5 p.m. By then, most of the local helicopters were airborne, reports Richard Huff in the NY Daily News.

<<<>>>

CHOPPER CRASH...SORTA

Dave Hughes reports in his excellent Washington-Baltimore TV insider web DCRTV that....WJZ's "Sky Eye Chopper 13" crashed and was severely damaged and possibly destroyed during a maintenance incident at Martin State Airport in Middle River on Wednesday evening. 

Jay Newman, the CBS-owned station's vice president and general manager, says a worker was doing routine maintenance on the helicopter's engine at 7:30 PM when the craft became airborne and fell over. No one was injured.

Editor's note: Just a few weeks ago, Baltimore's WBAL-11-NBC swiped longtime WJZ chopper jock Roy Taylor. For the time being, at least, WJZ appears to be out of the news chopper business.

<<<>>>

BAD DAY FOR CARL DAY

Carl Day, veteran news anchor at Dayton's WDTN-2-ABC, shared some bad news with his colleagues and friends Wednesday. He confirmed that the leukemia he fought off in 1997 has returned. 

Day, who is 65, said he will undergo surgery Friday and will have two lines placed into his arteries which doctors use for treatment purposes. He will then begin chemotherapy on Monday.

Details....

<<<>>>

SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT

NY1 reporter Rebecca Spitz has opened her eyes occasionally, but remains in a coma at St. Luke's Hospital nearly one month since her accident. She is in critical but stable condition. 

More from Michael Starr in the NY Post....

<<<>>>

NY1 reporters Adam Balkin and Susan Jhun were married this week on the Greek island of Santorini. Details...

<<<>>>

CNN news boss Jim Walton wants to boost morale, so he's offering employees a chance to win $12,000 in "a company-wide talent competition" in Atlanta, New York, Washington, London and Hong Kong. 

"We don't even have a holiday party; why this?" asked one.   Details....

<<<>>>

<<<>>>

NBC News auctioned off its book, "Operation Iraqi Freedom: 22 Historic Days in Words and Pictures," on eBay - fetching $3,500 which will be donated to the David Bloom Children's Trust. 

Bloom died last April while on assignment in Iraq, leaving behind a wife and three young daughters.

<<<>>>

Showtime announced yesterday it will produce "The Jayson Blair Project," based on the story of the ex-New York Times reporter who was fired for plagiarism and fabrication on hundreds of stories he filed over a period of several years.

<<<>>>

As we told you last week, and the Orlando Sentinel is finally reporting, WFTV Holdings, which owns WFTV-9-ABC and WRDQ-27, was slapped with a $10,000 fine this month because it didn't follow FCC guidelines when setting up its new digital transmitter. 

<<<>>>

Tammi Arender, news director and anchor at KARD-43-Fox and KTVE-10-NBC in Monroe, Louisiana, will leave the station Oct. 24. to "pursue other opportunities." 

<<<>>>

THE DEFENSIVE NEWSROOM

"Fear has become the dominant influence in newsrooms everywhere, and it's one of the reasons viewers are turning away," writes Terry Heaton, a 32-year veteran of the TV news wars.

"People who consistently come to work in fear of their jobs simply cannot do a good job of reporting and presenting the news." 

<<<>>>

UNCLE WALTER

The much honored Texas Monthly Magazine has a long and rambling interview with Walter Cronkite in its current issue.

Writer Evan Smith asks the former CBS anchor: "Why is it wrong for you to be a liberal in your column but okay for O'Reilly and his friends at Fox to be openly conservative?"

Cronkite's reply: "That's the inconsistency you find with the all-out propagandists. I don't find any reason or rationality in that at all. The O'Reilly attacks on me, I think, are almost a compliment. I like the fact that he feels that I'm important enough and what I say is enticing enough to the populace that he has to attack it."

<<<>>>

DECEITFUL CRUSADERS

Tampa's WTVT-13-Fox has had a roller coaster ride in recent years -- changes of ownership, new network affiliation, old management swept out. But nothing has shaken the station's landmark tower on Kennedy Boulevard more than an almost seven-year dispute and lawsuit with two of its former reporters.

Reputations have been tarnished by the spat. Phil Metlin, WTVT's news director, says, "When I do a search online of my name, the results are just horrible. That's not who I am."

Metlin and his news staff are victims of a very shrewd -- and highly disingenuous -- campaign by the reporters, a husband-wife duo named Steve Wilson (right) and Jane Akre. The two have appealed to the liberal community's knee-jerk hatred of Rupert Murdoch's Fox empire in an effort to cloud the facts in the case.

Don't miss this article in Tampa's Weekly Planet by John Sugg, in which he reveals that Steve Wilson admits to keeping $5,000 in cash under his mattress.

<<<>>>

ON THE ROAD WITH WENDY

It's hard to feel good about beating up on Wendy Chioji, the cancer survivor news anchor at Orlando's WESH-2-NBC, who is participating in a cross-country bicycle fund raiser.

Labeled "Wendy's Tour of Hope," WESH is pulling out all the promotional stops, continually pounding the silly non-news story down the throats of unwilling news viewers.

We so thoroughly enjoyed Chioji's senseless daily diary drivel when she reported for the Hearst-Argyle stations from the Salt Lake City Olympics parking lot, our ears perked up when we learned that she was also keeping a similar online diary of her bike trip.

And, sure enough, she does not disappoint. Recent revelations....

"We stopped at a Whataburger Tuesday for malts and fries -- anything but Powerbars and turkey sandwiches."

"We saw a jackrabbit, buffalo, antelope and a deer."

"Today I'm having pasta with butter and parmesan sauce and a Caeser salad."

"Nutella. It is delicious. It's this chocolaty, hazelnutty, chocolaty, gooey, sticky, chocolaty stuff. On a banana, it totally revived me. I am going to eat it on everything but pizza."

Don't miss a single word of Wendy's riveting diary....

By the way, Lance Armstrong, who pedaled a few miles at the beginning of the "race," is now pedaling his way through a divorce.

<<<>>>

<<>>>

 

 

 

Got News? Alert the surly, mordacious editor at editor@newsblues.com

Monday, September 15, 2003

BREAKING NEWS
TEYA RYAN RESIGNS

Teya Ryan has "resigned" as executive vice president and general manager of CNN/U.S.  The announcement was made shortly after noon on Monday by CNN President Jim Walton, who indicated that Ryan would remain through the transition as a "consultant."

She will be replaced by Princell Hair, current vice president of news for the Viacom Stations Group, where he has ridden herd on a portfolio of 39 TV stations.

Hair's television career has been marked by a meteoric rise. He served briefly as news director of El Lay's KCBS-2.  Before that, he was ND of Baltimore's WBAL-11-NBC and NBC's Chicago O&O WMAQ-5.  He has also worked in Miami (WPLG & WSVN), Detroit (WDIV) and Orlando (WKMG).

<<<>>>

MINNEAPOLIS ND

Jeff Kiernan, current news director at Milwaukee's WTMJ-4-NBC (where he's been for 15 years), has been named the new ND at Minneapolis's CBS O&O WCCO-4, replacing Maria Reitan, who "resigned" last month.

<<<>>>

REPORTERS LIVING LARGE

Steve Wilson, the "chief investigative reporter for WXYZ-TV, the Scripps-Howard flagship ABC affiliate in Detroit," who was accused Friday by Atlanta's Creative Loafing newspaper of misappropriating money from a legal defense fund and using it to purchase a $1.4 million home in Ponte Vedra Beach, has refused to talk to NewsBlues unless we give him the "same kind of unedited 'news release' access to your readers that you allowed (Creative Loafing Sr Editor John) Sugg." 

We declined.

"I see your policy is to simply print whatever release anyone sends you," harumphed Wilson.

NewsBlues asked him to respond to two simple questions...

"How can two TV reporters afford such a house?

"Were the funds collected from your website used in the purchase of this home?"

According to county records, Wilson and partner Jane Akre purchased a 5,000-square-foot, $1.4 million luxury townhouse near Jacksonville, Fla. with a $1.1 million down payment.

The Creative Loafing article suggests that the money may have come from "uninformed do-gooders" who contributed to Wilson and Akre's "legal defense fund."

The two sued Fox Television five years ago, claiming they "pressured (them) to deliberately distort a news story-and then fired (them) after (they) resisted." Fox denied the claim and fought back.

A Tampa jury initially awarded Akre $425,000 for wrongful termination, but the award was later overturned on appeal.

"Every penny contributed to this fund goes to pay for legal expenses remaining from the trial as well as continuing expenses related to the appeal process—paralegals, transcripts of testimony, etc—only the direct expenses of this lawsuit," says their website. "Jane & Steve receive none of these funds for their personal use."

Where, then, did the money come from?

"It's not at all that simple," explains Wilson.

Color your surly editor skeptical.

 

 

Thursday, September 18, 2003

SHAM MARTYRS

Steve Wilson and wife Jane Akre, the two former Tampa reporters who sued Fox and Tampa's WTVT five years ago....lost in court....and have since been collecting donations on their website to help defray legal expenses, now say they will comply with Florida state regulations, designed to oversee fundraising activities.

According to Wilson, now an investigative reporter for Detroit's WXYZ-7-ABC, the couple did not register with the Florida Department of Agriculture's Division of Consumer Services because they believed they qualified for an exemption. Public solicitations for money are allowed for "individuals who invite donations for a particular family in need."

The Division of Consumer Services, however, took note of the fact that Wilson and Akre have been raking in cash under the banner "Citizens Fund For The Right To Know."

Wilson now says he will comply with state regulations, but he will not produce audited records...nor will he explain how he is able to afford a $1.4 million beach townhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

"We have nothing to hide and never intended to violate even the spirit of state oversight," he told NewsBlues. "In fact, we welcome the opportunity to block further wild speculation by immediately complying with the obligations outlined to us today by the state official in charge of administering the state’s Solicitation of Contributions Act.">>

 

Friday, September 12, 2003

 

 CREATIVE LOAFING

You may remember Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, the husband-and-wife "reporting" team that produced a hysterical, poorly written investigation of Monsanto's cattle-fed growth hormone five years ago then screamed bloody murder when their bosses at Tampa's WTVT-13 asked them to make some copy changes.

Wilson and Akre were fired by the station for repeated acts of insubordination.

They then sued WTVT under a Florida whistleblower law and immediately began a vigorous campaign of fundraising and self-promotion

They implied impoverishment on their website, telling uninformed do-gooders that "we have decided to put our pride aside and ask all of you who will benefit from our struggle to help shoulder the burden of legal expenses."

Their web still contains a "Click Here to Help Jane and Steve" link.

To turbo charge their fundraising following defeat of their lawsuit, they claim they'll have to pay Fox's legal costs, as much as $3 million. That's a gross exaggeration. Fox won fees only for the relatively minor portion spent during the appeal of a jury decision.

Now Atlanta's Creative Loafing reports that Wilson and Akre have purchased a 5,000-square-foot, $1.4 million luxury townhouse near Jacksonville, Fla.

According to county records, the townhouse purchase on Ponte Vedra Beach shows only a $300,000 mortgage -- indicating a $1.1 million down payment.

When confronted with the records, Wilson last week refused to disclose any accounting of money he collected for the lawsuit. He claimed there were errors in the public records, but he refused to cite the specific mistakes or even to say whether they were significant.

He threatened litigation if Creative Loafing ran the information that he claimed was erroneous. Florida law, as with most states, protects reporting on the contents of public records.

According to the Wilson and Akre website, "Every penny contributed to this fund goes to pay for legal expenses remaining from the trial as well as continuing expenses related to the appeal process—paralegals, transcripts of testimony, etc—only the direct expenses of this lawsuit. Jane & Steve receive none of these funds for their personal use."

Don't miss this report by Creative Loafing Senior Editor John Sugg, who covered the entire Wilson/Akre circus when he was editor of CL's Tampa sister paper, the Weekly Planet.

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER

The Justice Department may file a criminal complaint against ABC News over a story designed to reveal flaws in homeland security measures.The story, which aired on last night's edition