Transparency lacking in STL TV 2 reporter’s story

Editor’s note:  This is a television criticism piece by Tripp Frohlichstein.

Channel 2’s Elliott Davis expects transparency when he goes after a government entity he believes is misusing tax money.  Unfortunately, he is not delivering transparency when it comes to some of his own reports.

During the summer, he ran a story that included an interview with the then-chancellor of St. Louis Community College, Myrtle Dorsey.  Davis had obtained results of a survey critical of a professional development day held in October of 2012.

Davis already had run a critical story about this event several months earlier but did not have the survey results at the time.  An interview with Dorsey was included in the initial story. The problem is that instead of conducting a new, fresh interview based on the survey’s results, he simply used portions of the interview he had conducted months earlier.

A fresh interview would have been best, but he should have at least told viewers it was a months old interview.  That way, viewers can decide for themselves if using an old interview was okay.

Davis did, in fact, contact the Community College about doing a fresh interview.

The college responded in an e-mail, “You have interviewed the Chancellor on this subject.  What information are you looking for?  Thanks.”

Davis then responded via e-mail, “No problem we can use what we have already. Thank you.”

There was no mention on the air of reusing the interview.  There is no specific mention online either (http://fox2now.com/2013/07/16/you-paid-for-it-chancellors-day-costs-taxpayers-over-42000/).  However, below the story, there is a reference to “Previous You Paid For It Report On Chancellor’s Day.”  Sadly, this is not nearly specific enough for a viewer to realize he used an old interview for an updated story.  People would have to watch both stories to realize what he had done.

This is not the only incident of this nature. Recently, Davis re-ran a story in which he had a confrontation with Darlene Green in her role as a member of the Lambert Airport Board, questioning the money spent on the new runways.  While the story was legitimate, he once again ran it without telling people he had actually done the interview five months earlier when he ran a similar story.

E-mails to Channel 2 news director Audrey Prywitch and PR head Suzi Mahe were not answered.

Davis, however, did respond.  This is his unedited e-mail:

“In the case of the Chancellor I asked her spokesman if she wanted to do a new interview and they said no! I actually wanted to reinterview her but they declined.

Secondly I asked the colleges designated Spokesman if any thing had changed in her views since that first interview. Again their answer was no.

I told them I would then use the interview I had already done with her.

In essence they believed the Chancellors Day event was a good idea when I first did the interview. And when I subsequently talked to them they told me their position hadnt changed..they still believed it was a good idea.

In fact the college cooperated in providing me a copy of the Survey in question. The college never complained that my subsequent story using the original interview was unfair or that anything was taken out of context. In short nothing had changed in their stance since  they declined my Request for a new interview. I did not give the date of the interview in the follow up report in the story but i didn’t say it was just done.

As for the Darlene Green story..That was just a reairing of the Original report. None of the information in it had changed. Whenever I reair stories I always make sure that no facts have changed. It happened to be a memorable interview.that I wanted to the share with viewers.

Please let me know if I can help answer any other questions”

Davis did not respond to follow-up questions asking him to be clearer about why he hadn’t revealed to viewers the interviews were old.  Nor did he respond to the discrepancy over conducting a second interview with the chancellor.  He indicated the college said no but the e-mail exchange indicated otherwise.

Elliott Davis does some good work.  But he should hold himself up to the high standards he expects from those he interviews.

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It was a less than desirable return from maternity leave for the talented Channel 5 weathercaster, Bree Smith.  As anchor Kay Quinn introduced her on the noon newscast on Friday, October 25, she told us Bree would “keep us apprised of how the weather is looking” for the World Series (to be played the next night).  The problem is, Smith didn’t give us that information.  She made general weekend comments (daytime weather) and then the weather for Friday.

This seems to happen a lot as anchors introduce weather people.  They refer to a specific event.  But if it isn’t in the script for the weathercaster, it often goes unanswered.  All the stations’ talent need to pay more attention to this, because when those questions are asked and go unanswered, it is the viewer who gets frustrated.

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TV stations are expected to get it right, whether it relates to facts or simply spelling correctly.  Lately, typos are frequent on the air.  Just yesterday (October 31) at noon, Channel 5 aired a graphic that said in part, “…say to her son when he left for collage.”  No further comment needed.