A young woman named Sara Dayley made a wise decision last year when she walked away from a reporting gig at the NBC affiliate in St. Louis. She became the spokeswoman for the West County EMS & Fire Protection District, reportedly for $65,000 a year. Now she wants to moonlight on weekends at the Fox affiliate, anchoring the morning news.
This arrangement drew a raised eyebrow from Joe Holleman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “When asked about potential conflicts of interest, Dayley referred questions to Audrey Prywitch, news director [at the station]. Prywitch said that because the station is aware of Dayley’s other job, ‘We’re even more cognizant (of bias), because we don’t want to appear to have any kind of bias.’ ”
Then Mr. Holleman called on Al Tompkins, a former news director who teaches at the Poynter Institute. He huffed and puffed: “At some point, let’s either be a journalist or let’s be a public relations spokesperson. The public already suspects we show favorites. … Disclosure minimizes the sin, but it doesn’t erase it.”
I’m guessing Mr. Tompkins has never watched TV news on weekend mornings. It’s a continuous loop of stories from the week before and breathless updates twice an hour about mayhem from the night before. The weatherman appears a lot; maybe the sports staff left something useful. Anchoring said broadcasts for hours is a chore few volunteer for.
In this case, the disclosure is on the record. It has been decreed that any story involving the West County EMS & Fire Protection District will be presented by Sara’s co-anchor. Give Ms. Prywitch credit from a creative solution that will sit well with bean counters and the news staff. Call the naysayers what they are – hacks who witness real biased reporting every day and never call it out.