Channel 13 in tricky spot when employee makes news


When the news is you, should you nix the news?

The inaction of "Action News" is merely speculative. But Ron Futrell triggered the tricky issue last week when his madcap mug shot, grinning like the Joker minus makeup, hit the media -- five days after the KTNV-TV, Channel 13, newscaster was arrested and slapped with several misdemeanor charges stemming from an accident on Interstate 15. (He has since been fired.)

Channel 13 reported the July 26 incident with other media July 31. Outwardly, it was equal-opportunity news -- no evidence exists to prove the station sat on the pause button. But to buy that they didn't squelch the story for nearly a week, you must accept that a news organization dedicated to daily coverage of Las Vegas didn't know for five days that one of its most high-profile people had been arrested.

Channel 13 news director Karin Movesian declined comment, citing company policy, the standard corporate cop-out (and not Movesian's fault).

Tally up net losses and gains: Did five days' delay lessen the humiliation to the station, Futrell or his family? And imagine the boost to their reputation for fairness had Channel 13 been out in front on the Futrell story.

News outlets reporting on themselves, especially under embarrassing circumstances, is never easy. (This newspaper has faced similar situations.) The impulse to protect an employee's dignity -- or company's image -- is understandable, whatever the business, but in media circles, the journalistic imperatives of the newsroom can clash with the PR priorities of the boardroom. Credibility requires accountability. Futrell is a local celebrity, and celebrity transgressions are news. When we're perceived as practicing reporting with the aggression of an armored tank on others, and the sensitivity of a sparrow on ourselves, we sacrifice integrity to hypocrisy.

Say buy-buy, stations: As ad sales slacken in a sliding economy, CBS Radio plans to shed 50 stations in 12 midsize markets, and industry analysts identify Las Vegas, the 32nd largest market, as one likely target for trimming. That puts stations including KLUC-FM, 98.5; KMXB-FM, 94.1; KXNT-AM, 840; and KXTE-FM, 107.5 in the path of the purge. Where sell-offs go, station layoffs, staff turnover and format flips can follow. Deals might be sealed as early as Labor Day, as if August in Vegas isn't enough reason to sweat.

End credits: Congrats to TV news on the birth of yet another bouncing baby newscast at 11 p.m. on KVVU-TV, Channel 5, the Fox affiliate. Have a cigar. An exploding cigar.

Under linguistic nonsense, file weathercasters' fondness for telling us that "winds are calm." Call us quirky, but it seems if winds are calm ... then there's no wind.

Among the gratifying responses to the debut of Mediaology was a reader request to investigate female anchors revealing excessive cleavage.

We'll have to look into the cleavage ... issue.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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