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Journalism Ethics

KXTV Reporter: ‘Plagiarism is Alive and Well in America’s Number One Media Market’

KXTV lightening storyIn a letter to Jim Romenesko, Sacramento reporter George Warren takes CBS-owned WCBS to task for “blatant, bald-faced plagiarism … alive and well in America’s number one media market.” Warren, a reporter at ABC affiliate KXTV, writes:

Sure, I’m flattered that WCBS liked my [lightning strike] story enough to have weatherman Lonnie Quinn re-track it WORD-FOR-WORD. But what the hell?

I’m assuming the CBS flagship station in New York City got my story from CNN, which got the story from my station in Sacramento — and then the weather guy simply replaced my narration with his own. WCBS presented the story as its own original work on air and online with no mention that the story actually came to them from another local TV station in California.

Yahoo News then posted the story from WCBS and racked up nearly 400,000 hits in the first two days. The New York Daily News did the same thing. This robs my TV station of proper credit and the revenue we derive from “clicks.”

I’m told by my station management that our contract with CNN allows other stations to use our content as their own. Obviously WCBS took this authorization to the extreme. It may be permitted, but any journalist knows that it’s wrong.

Romenesko has links to both stories for comparison purposes.

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KUSA Denies Conflict of Interest in Kristin Hopkins Coverage

Brian Willie KUSADenver NBC affiliate KUSA is denying a conflict of interest in its coverage of Kristin Hopkins, a woman who was trapped for six days in her car after an accident.

The Denver Post reports KUSA’s production manager, Brian Willie, is a close friend of the Hopkins family. At their request, Willie acted as a spokesman, reading an on-camera statement (pictured) to the media at St. Anthony Central Hospital Monday. Willie was not covering the story for KUSA, the NBC affiliate says.

KUSA’s rivals have complained that the family gave first access to photos from the scene to KUSA, according to the Post.

In reporting the story, the station disclosed Willie’s employment at the station: “The person that you saw reading the family statement is 9NEWS production manager Brian Willie, a close friend of the family who was asked to speak today on their behalf. He is not covering this story in his capacity on 9NEWS.”

Willie will no longer be reading statements to the media on the case. “There is no conflict of interest,” KUSA general manager Mark Cornetta told the Post. “There is no loss of objectivity. The hospital will provide any other release of information.”

Arkansas Business Editor Raises Questions About Disclosures in KFSM Story

kfsm logoThe editor of Arkansas Business has penned an open letter to Rick Bagley, the news director at KFSM, the CBS affiliate in Fort Smith, Ark. At issue: a lengthy piece on the station’s website raising questions about the qualifications of the recently-appointed director of the University of Arkansas’ Center for Ethics in Journalism.

The editor, Gwen Moritz, says the article should have included a disclosure: it was written by KFSM managing editor Larry Henry, whose mother-in-law is a professor at the school who supported a different candidate for the job. Moritz exchanged several emails with Henry about the piece; in the open letter, she said Henry “insulted me personally and professionally and even offered some choice words for my husband for good measure.”

Moritz also reveals Henry has applied for jobs in the university’s journalism department twice, once as recently as last year. A Jim Romenesko reader points out when comments on the KFSM website started questioning some of the story’s problems, “the comments were mysteriously turned off.”

“If I were their news director, I would consider whether they are qualified to practice journalism at all,” Moritz writes in her letter to Bagley: Read more

NYT: Undercover Reports on School Security Raise Ethical Questions

kirkwood_hsUsing the recent school scare caused by a reporter at KSDK as an example, The New York Times looks at the “broader questions about the ethical and practical implications” of undercover reporting on school security:

Jen Wilton, who has two sons at the [St. Louis] school, said she was frightened when one of them texted to tell her about the lockdown. The news station had crossed the line, she said. “They certainly didn’t do me any service,” she said. “I have a few more gray hairs because of it, and it terrified my kids and a lot of other kids.”

Critics say these kinds of undercover efforts do not provide an accurate portrait of school safety, and question whether they serve any public good. Some journalists question whether the news organizations become too much a part of the story, and whether it is dangerous for reporters to wander into schools now that students and staff are often on heightened alert. Read more

Here’s How the Hartford Stations Are Handling the Release of the Newtown 911 Tapes

US-CRIME-SCHOOL SHOOTING-FILESHartford-New Haven stations are being cautious about broadcasting the audio from the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting 911 tapes, which were released at 2pmET today after a lengthy court battle.

CBS affiliate WFSB, which said earlier this week it would honor Newtown’s request to stay away on the first anniversary of the shooting, announced on Facebook it would not air the audio of the 911 calls. Same for NBC owned WVIT, which is consistent with the policy NBC News has announced.

“As part of NBC Connecticut’s commitment to treat every story with care and compassion, we have decided NOT to air the 911 calls,” WVIT wrote on Facebook. “Our team of reporters will carefully review them after they are released, but we will not play the recordings on air.”

On the noon newscast today, ABC affiliate WTNH said they plan to “select only non-graphic portions of the tapes for broadcast,” noting anyone who wants to hear the full 911 audio can go to the station’s website.

Fox affiliate WTIC had reporter Louisa Muller describe the 911 calls and also played short clips on its newscasts.

School Board Blames KELO Reporting Error for Pledge of Allegiance Controversy

kelo pledge reportSchool board members in Sioux Falls, S.D. are blaming a reporting error by CBS affiliate KELO for sparking national controversy on the role of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, according to the Argus Leader:

Some board members and their families say they’ve received threats after a Nov. 12 vote that requires middle schools to recite the Pledge daily. A group of veterans wanted the district to make it mandatory in high schools as well, and national media coverage of the issue has brought a flurry of complaints.

[...] Board members blamed what they called a misleading news story by KELO-TV as the original source of misinformation; the news station, which did not cover the meeting in person, reported that the board had voted to end the practice of saying the Pledge in high school. KELO corrected the headline and its story, but some board members say they took too long to do so.

The school board did vote unanimously not to require high school students to take the Pledge of Allegiance, but contrary to KELO’s report, the vote upheld the current policy, which has been in place since the 1970s.

The president of the school board told KELO that board members are “getting bombarded with calls and emails … from people who think we took it out of the high school.” As NewsBlues notes, KELO reported on the subsequent firestorm without noting that its own reporting had played a part in the outrage.

The school board vote has received national attention from Fox News, the Blaze and the Associated Press. [h/t NewsBlues]

Court Rules WTMJ Did Not Violate Bus Driver’s Privacy With On-Camera Confrontation

WTMJ_BusDriver_Koebel

A state appeals court has ruled that WTMJ, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, did not violate a school bus driver’s privacy when investigative reporter Robert Koebel confronted her on-camera about a past prostitution conviction.

The report, which aired in April of last year, was an investigative report about about Milwaukee school bus drivers who had criminal records. The station obtained the information through an open-records request and then used police reports to identify people who had been convicted of a crime. After the report aired, the bus driver, Melissa Dumas, was fired. She sued Koebel and WTMJ’s parent company, Journal Communications, alleging invasion of privacy.

According to the Associated Press, a lower court ruled that the bus driver’s conviction was public record and WTMJ’s report was protected under the first amendment. The appeals court upheld the decision, saying that the information was “undoubtedly embarrassing” but also a “matter of public concern.”

Should WUSA Have Aired Footage of Crew Attack?

bye_wusa_304After WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson and photographer Danielle Gill were attacked covering a home invasion earlier this week, the CBS affiliate aired reported on the incident. Noting that the woman in the video has not yet been identified — and therefore could have been one of the victims of the home invasion –The Washington Post wonders if the story should have aired at all:

Johnson says he doesn’t know the identity of the woman who attacked him or the circumstances that led her to the townhouse in which D.C. police said four armed men held eight people hostage and assaulted three of them. Neither does his boss, WUSA news director Fred D’Ambrosi.

Which leaves open the question: Was the woman one of the victims? Considering that most media organizations won’t identify survivors of violent crimes, out of concern for their privacy and safety, did TV crews cross a line in recording her and airing the footage?

[...] “If the definition of news is something unusual happening, this was certainly something unusual,” D’Ambrosi said. Read more

WTMJ Apologizes For Report Alleging Police Misconduct

wtmj_surveillance_304Five months after a sensationalized promo for a Sweeps story, Milwaukee NBC affiliate WTMJ has apologized to a police officer featured in the promo.

WTMJ promoted an “explosive I-team investigation months in the making” by showing surveillance video of police officer Matthew Knight at an ATM with a man. The promo copy reads: “A Milwaukee police officer taking a man’s cash out of an ATM. Then walking off with that cash in hand. What’s really going on? The Milwaukee police department has some explaining to do.” (Video of the promo is after the jump.)

The police officer in the surveillance video was cleared of wrongdoing in March, two months before WTMJ aired the story. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Duane Dudek reports that during Tuesday’s 5 pm newscast, anchor Mike Jacobs read the following statement:

We strive for accuracy in our reporting. But despite our best efforts, when we do get a story wrong, we owe it to you to stand corrected. Earlier this year, our reporting and promotion of a story involving Matthew Knight, a Milwaukee police officer, left the wrong impression that Officer Knight was involved in inappropriate or wrongful behavior. He was not. Read more

Website Aims to Shame South Florida Reporters by Publishing Personal Info

A website that is geared to “exposing deadbeats to the world” has turned its sights on reporters in South Florida.

The site, deadbeatlink.com, has posted the names and personal information of reporters, both print and broadcast, who don’t meet its journalistic standards. Included on the list are reporters for West Palm Beach CBS affiliate WPEC.

For example, when you click on the link for WPEC reporter Benjamin Becker, deadbeatlink.com shows his personal info, including his address and gives a short explanation of why he’s being targeted,

Benjamin Ruttenberg Becker is a reporter for WPEC Channel 12 in West Palm Beach. As journalists, the staff of the WPEC have chosen to ignore select political figures in Palm Beach County, turning their heads while their agencies run rampant with corruption, ranging in crimes of moral turpitude, stealing from tax payers to even committing murder.They cover things up in their own industry; if a member of the media commits rape, they are dismissed quietly and it is ignored by the rest of the media, deemed not worthy of news.

The video above was posted to Vimeo by Jose Lambiet of Gossip Extra. He was sent the video after asking the group behind the site, in his words, “what’s up?” In it, the group says journalism is supposed to be a watchdog of the government. The people behind the website obviously think that’s not happening and promise to list a new news organization every week. Read more

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