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KSL Questions Ethics of Columnist Who Criticized Bomb Threat Coverage

Tribune_ksl Tanya Vea, VP and station manager for Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL, told TVSpy she has “serious concerns with the ethics of [Scott] Pierce’s reporting on us.”

KSL was criticized by Pierce, the TV Critic for The Salt Lake Tribune, for covering last Thursday’s high school bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax. Pierce wrote, “Just because you can go live doesn’t mean you should,” questioning the station’s decision to break into the Today Show to cover the threat.

Vea told TVSpy KSL scanner traffic told them police believed they were responding to an active shooter situation. She defended the move based on the prevalence of technology, “In an age of social media and cell phones in schools the word spread quickly about what was happening.”

She told TVSpy she thought KSL was “very restrained in the information we provided on-air and our tone was intentionally calm.” And added, “[a]s a news organization we do not make coverage decisions based on blanket guidelines such as ‘we don’t cover suicides, we don’t cover bomb threats, etc.’ We make news decisions based on the facts and information surrounding each circumstance and story.”

Pierce, and to some degree TVSpy, then became the target of her response when she questioned his motives for publishing his column and ours for not knowing the playing field. “As a former employee of our media companies, Pierce has a clear conflict of interest, as does The Tribune,” said Vea. She also pointed out Pierce, who used the RTDNA’s “Guidelines for Covering Bomb Threats” to criticize KSL, “is not a journalist, he is a columnist and as such is entitled to his opinion.”

Pierce told TVSpy, “the definition of a columnist is ‘a journalist contributing regularly to a newspaper or magazine” and said he has been criticizing KSL since 1990 when he became the TV critic at the Deseret News, where he worked for 20 years before coming to The Tribune.”

“The Deseret News, our sister newspaper with which we have a combined newsroom, is the primary competitor of the SL Tribune and KSL.com is the market leader in online news, more than doubling the Trib’s traffic,” said Vea. “The Tribune also partners with one of our TV competitors, and as such they cover us from a competitor’s perspective. I would encourage you to keep this conflict of interest in mind when using Pierce or the SL Tribune as a credible source of information.”

TVSpy regrets we didn’t add in our initial story that Pierce did reveal his paper’s partnership with rival station KUTV. “(Note: The Salt Lake Tribune maintains a news-gathering partnership with KUTV, which did not contribute to this column.)”

Both KSL and The Deseret News are owned by Bonneville International which is owned by Deseret Management Corporation which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Vea capped off her replay by saying Pierce got her title wrong in his column.

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