Tag Archives: St. Louis

Leo Drey: Progressive Pioneer

Leo Drey left us at the age of 98.

It was in the mid-sixties that I first met Leo. He had heard about struggling FOCUS/Midwest magazine and wondered how it was doing. We met in his unpretentious office–no secretary. You just walked in.

The simplicity of his and his wife’s lifestyle, both in their work and in their home, was in sharp contrast to the far-reaching progressive adventure they pursued over these many decades. While Leo devoted himself to sustain an environment on the ground that would benefit generations to come, his wife Kay became a prophetess, who not only analyzed and recognized the implicit dangers of nuclear power plants, but also became an unrelenting voice informing the public and government how the nuclear industry poisons our environment. St. Louis Magazine called both “Green Giants”.

Leo encapsulated much more than being a national pioneer in land reclamation, a philanthropist who made one of the largest gifts of its type in Missouri, if not the nation, a founder of environmental groups that will outlast all of us. Moreover, he also represented a reconciliation of two lines of thought of particular concern to the Jewish community as well as to many others.

In a High Holiday, Yom Kippur, sermon, the late Rabbi Jim Diamond, then director of Hillel, a student group at Washington University, offered his evaluation of where American culture diverted from Jewish culture. Americans, he declared, have established individualism as the principal guide in shaping their lives. Jews, on the other hand, have always considered the community, whether of their own tribe or on a more universal base, as the core of their belief system.

If Rabbi Diamond would have had an opportunity to meet Leo and review his lifework exalting individual values that contributed to many communities, he would have had to amend his theories and recognize that individualism and community work can complement each other, benefiting both aspects of American life.

Leo Drey represented the best of many cultures.

Publisher’s note: Leo and Kay Drey were major supporters of the St. Louis Journalism review and chaired the most recent First Amendment celebrations for the Gateway Journalism Review.

Twitter explodes with invective, partisan comment after Ferguson shootings

Twitter provided the earliest reports of the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson this week. It also provided the forum for invective, hate and partisan reaction.

President Barack Obama used Twitter to condemn the shootings and conservative critics condemned Obama for relegating his response to Twitter.

Fox commentators blamed Attorney General Eric Holder’s report last week on unconstitutional police practices in Ferguson for creating the atmosphere in which the officers were shot. On Fox, Jeff Roorda, the head of the St. Louis police union said the resignation of Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson wasn’t enough for protesters, commenting, “They didn’t get what they wanted when Tom stepped down. They got it late last night when they finally, successfully shot two police officers.”


Protest leaders and the Brown family condemned the violence in press conferences and on Twitter.  But social media critics of the Ferguson police filled Twitter with invective about the police shootings being just in light of the death of Michael Brown.


Meanwhile the Twitter handle for police supporters #bluelivesmatter was trending.

TV station’s school ‘test’ story was worth doing, despite lockdown


Editor’s note:  This story appeared in the spring 2014 print issue of Gateway Journalism Review.

In late February, NBC’s “Today” show hired two teenage-looking actors (both aged 21 or older) and sent them to a liquor store in New Jersey. The actors loitered outside, asking customers entering the store to buy beer for them. All male customers refused, but several women took their money and purchased their six-packs.

This was not a huge story and probably proved nothing. It did, however, stimulate discussion about the adult role in underaged drinking, especially when the “Today” staffers interviewed the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving about the implication that women were more willing than men to provide teens with alcohol.

Television newspeople love this kind of story – and, because of their visual dimension, can do it very well. But news stories that involve reporters as active participants in making the news also raise ethical questions, as can be seen by the controversy resulting from KSDK’s investigation of security at five St. Louis-area schools. KSDK, an NBC affiliate, was not alone in this caper. According to a report in the New York Times, WNBC in New York and the “Today” program did similar investigations of school security.

Were they wrong to do so? What ethical principles did they violate in producing these stories? Is this a case in which the ends – an investigation of security in our public schools – justified the means the reporters used?

Investigative journalism has a time-honored place in the U.S. media system. Since Nellie Bly had herself admitted so she might examine conditions in lunatic asylums of the 1880s, reporters have gone undercover to discover the truth about the meat-packing industry, child labor, prison life, drug rings, supermarkets, airport security and a host of other disturbances in the American dream. Actually, Bly was not even the first; New York Tribune reporter Julius Chambers had arranged his own commitment to an asylum 15 years earlier. And just as the power and popularity of investigative journalism has grown with advances in computing and surveillance technology, so has the debate over the methods of investigation that are appropriate for reporters to use.

The first question to consider is whether the KSDK story was worth doing. Unfortunately, names such as Newtown, Columbine, Arapahoe and Roswell, and many others, have been hammered recently into the American consciousness because of tragic events in these communities. Gun control and school security have become matters of public concern and debate. While it might be questioned whether sending reporters to open school doors is the best (or only) way of reporting this story, it nevertheless is a story of public importance, and it might well be significant that the KSDK reporter found that four of the five schools he visited had effective security systems in place. Parents and pupils from these schools must draw reassurance from this.

What about the method KSDK used? In Tripp Frohlichstein’s accompanying article, this is referred to as an “undercover investigation.” In fact, it was nothing of the sort. Some years ago Edmund Lambeth of the University of Missouri published a fine article on the ethics of investigative reporting. Lambeth used the phrase “passive deception” for what KSDK did: the reporter appeared as a public citizen might, sampling a restaurant (food critic) or film or auto repair garage – or, in this case, checking to see if anyone could walk into the school unimpeded. At Kirkwood High School, he could – and so could anyone else. Lambeth distinguished “passive deception” from “aggressive deception,” which involves role-playing (pretending to be someone else) or a form of lying. The “Today” program experiment described at the beginning of this article is a form of aggressive deception, which can be less acceptable in an ethical sense. The KSDK reporter was not in disguise and acted as could any member of the public, armed or not.

Lambeth also discussed the notions of “benign” and “invasive” deception. Benign deception refers to cases in which the reporter gathers information without altering the context of the situation, performing mainly eyeball surveillance. He distinguished this from “invasive” deception, in which the reporter misrepresents his identity or provides falsified information, such as incorrectly filling out a job application so the reporter might obtain a position. These invasive acts change the context – and, in doing so, might alter the story that is reported, and therefore raise a new set of ethical questions. Again, using Lambeth’s ethical standard, KSDK’s benign reporting did not alter the context of the situation in the schools, and therefore was not, on its face, unethical.

Frohlichstein castigates KSDK for failing to meet the standard of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics code that suggests “undercover and other surreptitious methods” should be avoided except in exceptional circumstances, such as when there is no other way of reporting the story. The SPJ code is only one ethical system available to journalists, among many – and, as shown above, it does not apply in this case, as the KSDK reporter was not “undercover” or using surreptitious means.

Ethicist Sissela Bok suggested that a “test of publicity” might be used in determining whether investigative methods are ethical. According to Bok, this is an issue of transparency: to what extent is the reporter or news organization willing to assert and defend publicly the methods used in generating information? In this case, KSDK explained quite explicitly what its reporter had done in approaching the schools, seeking entry, identifying himself to authorities, and leaving the scene. This worked in four of the five cases. KSDK’s procedures broke down when the reporter encountered the one school with no apparent security system in place. But this does not mean the station’s work fails Bok’s test.

In Frohlichstein’s article, KSDK is taken to task for what happened after the reporter left the scene at Kirkwood. This is a purely consequentialist argument, trying to make the reporter responsible for what happened after he reported the story – a classic case of blaming the messenger. Is it the reporter’s fault that the principal put the school on lockdown? That a teacher incited his students by promising to stand at the door and sacrifice himself in protecting them? That another teacher told a student to arm himself with scissors and be prepared to kill the person if it came to that (the student’s mother reported this on Facebook)? That another student spent 40 minutes thinking she was going to die? Clearly, the school administration and faculty were caught unprepared, just as they were unprepared earlier when the reporter was able to enter the school, walk past several occupied classrooms, ask a teacher for information without being questioned, and the school was unable to locate the security officer when the reporter finally reached the main office. In this circumstance, should parents and students be angered by the television station that exposed this remarkable level of unpreparedness, or the school officials who failed to provide them with better protection?

KSDK probably was guilty of one error of judgment: selecting Kirkwood High School as one of its five schools. Kirkwood lies in the heart of middle-class St. Louis, the comfortable home of many members of the city’s media industry. Frohlichstein himself previously has been employed by KHS, and two of his children attended Kirkwood schools. Putting this obvious conflict of interest aside, one is left with two thoughts:

  • We are given the impression that KSDK’s reporting of this story led to a storm of public disapproval, but why do we not hear about the parents and pupils at the other four schools? Were they unhappy with the station and its reporting in the same way?
  • Would the media establishment be attacking KSDK if it had substituted a high school in South County or North St. Louis for Kirkwood in checking on school security?

Then again, given the value of public attention to ratings, maybe KSDK knew exactly what it was doing.

Walter Jaehnig is the retired director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a reporter and editor with the Louisville Courier-Journal, and taught reporting and media ethics at Indiana, Wyoming and SIUC.

TV station’s reputation takes hit in aftermath of school safety ‘test’ story

Editor’s note: Tripp Frohlichstein has been retained by Kirkwood in the past, though not on this incident. He had two sons go through the Kirkwood school district. Also, a shorter version of this story appeared in the spring 2014 print issue of Gateway Journalism Review.

This is the story of a good idea gone bad.

It is the story of a series of mistakes made by a television station.

And it is the story of lessons learned by a school district.

On Jan. 16, KSDK Channel 5 (the NBC affiliate in St. Louis) was investigating security at five different schools in the area. One of those schools was Kirkwood High School. The station’s undercover effort would result in a lockdown at the high school, angering students, staff and parents and ultimately forcing an apology from the station.

The details of this story are pieced together from interviews and previous accounts; Channel 5 officials, when asked for an interview, said the station had no further comment.

It should be noted that the other four schools, all much smaller, had almost no security problems, according to the Channel 5 report. Only Kirkwood “failed” the security test, according to the station.

The others schools are all attended by younger students. However, though the station failed to specifically point it out, it was an apples-and-oranges comparison. Kirkwood High School has multiple buildings on its 43 acre campus and 37 entrances. The other schools have far fewer ways to get in because of their smaller size.

Mike Havener, Kirkwood’s principal, said it was unfair to compare his high school to the other schools tested. He explained why and how Channel 5 could have done its comparison in a better way.

“In the public educational system, elementary schools are run differently from middle and high schools,” he said. “The age of the students should be considered in many ways, and security is one of them. Why would you have all elementary schools in the story and one high school? This doesn’t seem like a valid study to me. There are many high schools around that could have been included. Also, high schools in California-style buildings (single story/spread out) could have been compared.”

The incident began around lunchtime. A photographer from Channel 5, John Kelley, was able to enter the high school unchallenged through a door on the south side of the building.

Channel 5’s website reported later that day that “one of our employees assigned to this investigative report visited Kirkwood High School. He entered and walked his way toward the office, asking a teacher for directions after a few minutes. There, he asked if he might discuss the school’s security. He identified himself by name and gave the office his phone number.

“When the security official could not be reached, our employee left the premises without escort. Approximately an hour later – after our visit – the high school was put on lockdown. This lockdown certainly was not the intent of our visit.

“We will report this story tonight on NewsChannel 5 at 10 p.m. NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children within.”

At this point, there was no apology from the station for causing the lockdown.

Kirkwood officials have acknowledged the lapses in security and say they have been fixed. One key change is that the door that Kelley entered was unmonitored for 20 to 25 minutes a day. It now is supervised full time. The school district has made other changes but has asked that they not be made public so that “people with ill intent” will not know how to get around the new measures.

The problem began after Kelley showed up in the high school office and asked to speak to someone from security. After leaving his name and number, Kelley asked for directions to the bathroom. However, a secretary noticed he went a different direction, so she called the School Resource Officer for backup.

They were not sure if Kelley had left the building and did not know where he was, so they called the number he left.

“We called the reporter’s phone once and did not leave a message,” said Kirkwood district communications director Ginger Cayce. “His message said he worked for Channel 5.”

So Cayce said she called Channel 5 to confirm his identity.

This is her account of what happened: “I told them (the Channel 5 assignment desk) what was going on, that we got a message that it was voicemail of John Kelley, and we are calling to verify he works for you and was on assignment. The person at the assignment desk I talked to said she could not verify that he worked for the station. She told me, ‘We can’t give you that information.’ So I asked if she could talk with someone who could. The person told me they were all in meetings or at lunch. I was transferred to Ava Ehrlich (listed on LinkedIn as senior executive content producer) but got her voicemail. I did not want to leave voicemail, so I hung up and called back right away. This time I asked for Brian, who is a Kirkwood parent who works on the Channel 5 assignment desk. He was not in that day. So I told the person I talked to we had to call the Kirkwood police if Channel 5 could not verify this person worked at Channel 5 and had left our building. I pointed out anybody could say they worked at Channel 5 on their voicemail, and we had to determine his intent. Was he really on a story? The person again said they would not give us the information or confirm he worked for the station. She said she would take my name and number and have someone call right back. I said it was important someone call right back. No one did. I called a third time about five minutes later, since no one had called me back. I told the person we must go into lockdown unless we can verify he is with Channel 5 and left our building. I said, ‘We need to know now.’ Once again, the person said they didn’t know.

“When I got to the high school, the police where there and the lockdown was being initiated. Because of the lockdown, I was escorted to the athletic office by a school counselor for my safety. Then I called Channel 5 for a fourth time. I spoke to a person named Melissa, and she said, ‘Hold on, hold on, I am texting John Kelley now to see if he was on assignment and if he has left the building.’ This was my first confirmation that John Kelley worked for Channel 5. Melissa then confirmed the details.”

Cayce said she was frustrated, as this had never happened before.

“I have always been able to verify information in my 15 years in public education,” she said.

Havener explained what was happening during the lockdown.

“Any time there is a lockdown situation in a high school, the first thing that is on my mind is the safety of our students and staff,” he said. “What is the possible danger, and at what level is the actual danger? Making sure the proper safety steps are followed in an intense atmosphere is vital to securing the campus. Securing the grounds and notifying police, students and staff of the situation – and actively seeking out the possible danger – is the highest priority.”

Later, Cayce said Channel 5’s Leisa Zigman, who narrated the on-air story, told her the assignment desk had not been told about the investigation because officials were concerned that if the identity of the Channel 5 staffer was confirmed, one school district might tell another and ruin the story. That had happened to Zigman years before, when she was working on a story about bullying in schools.

Even if the assignment desk was unaware of the investigation, why employees would not even confirm Kelley worked as a Channel 5 photographer remains unanswered.

This desire for secrecy was a costly error. During the lockdown, people were scared.

On Jan. 17, the Riverfront Times reported these examples:

  • “Caroline Goff, a freshman at Kirkwood, says her teacher told the class he’d stand in front of an attacker and sacrifice himself if the worst occurred.
  • “My son was given scissors and told to kill the person if it came to that,” Char Miller Henneberry posted on Facebook. “I’m thankful to the teacher as I know she was trying to protect the kids. But, wow, my son had to go through that for a story for the damn news station? Are you serious?”
  • Dan Sammartano says his freshman daughter spent all 40 minutes of the lockdown believing she was going to die. “I have never heard her this shaken up in my life,” Sammartano posted on Facebook. “She described how her teacher barricaded the door and courageously prepared himself to fight an intruder. She described police running across the roof above her, and loud bangs.”

By the time the story aired, social media was alive with substantial criticism of the station and its tactics, though a few did support the station. Mike Bush, introducing the story, acknowledged the concern but took a defensive position clearly indicating Channel 5 felt what it did was a good thing. The total story was given a whopping seven minutes, a lifetime by local news broadcast standards. This included a piece reported by Farrah Fazal in the last minute and 45 seconds with Charles McCrary (formerly assistant chief of police in St. Louis who also ran security for city schools for many years) discussing school safety and why Kirkwood had messed up.

Bush’s introduction, in full, read: “We begin tonight with a controversial story on local public school safety. We began the story with one premise: Are the security systems set up by school districts in St. Louis really working to keep our students safe? We have children in area schools, too, and we are the ones who are the first to get the news that there’s been another school shooting where someone gained access who shouldn’t. The story upset parents, and we’ve received your angry calls on this Newschannel 5 report. We knew this would be a difficult task, and we spent a lot of time determining how to approach it from a procedural and legal standpoint. Tonight, we want to show you what we found – and some of it will disturb you.”

In the story itself, narrated by Zigman, she noted that the employee was instructed to enter the school as any member of the public might and go to the office. She noted that of the five schools the employee went to, according to their security consultant McCrary, only one failed. That was Kirkwood. She added that faces were being blurred out.

Her narration noted that Kelley (he was not named in the story) entered the building unchallenged. After walking by classrooms and the cafeteria, he asked a teacher for directions to the office. He was still not challenged. She explained that Kelley, a photographer, identified himself by name. Zigman specified he left his name and KSDK cellphone number. He asked for directions to the restroom, Zigman said, to see if anyone would escort him. Zigman says he was pointed in the direction of the restroom and left on his own. She said he never went to the bathroom, but instead exited the building exactly where he entered.

Zigman noted it was troublesome to McCrary that it took an hour for the school to go on lockdown “after our photographer left the building.”

Kirkwood officials dispute that. They say the lockdown was initiated within 20 minutes after he left the office. They also acknowledged that even that timespan was too long and have since changed their procedures, which should mean a lockdown would occur much sooner under suspicious circumstances.

Zigman went on to say it was not the station’s intent to cause emotional distress, “and for that we are sorry. But we will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and our children.”

After the story aired, the furor on social media continued. Although Channel 5 argued what it did may save lives because of the security flaws, many parents saw it differently. They continued to be angry about what happened.

Students were upset as well.

A student named Ian Madden, a copy editor for the school’s newspaper, the Kirkwood Call, wrote a scathing piece. It had more than 31,000 “hits” online.

Here is Madden’s commentary:

“As I watched the beginning of KSDK NewsChannel 5’s 10 p.m. broadcast Thursday, I felt like I was rewatching the Kanye-Swift catastrophe. ‘We have heard you (Kirkwood community members), and we are sorry,’ the reporter said, before an extended clip demonstrating everything wrong with KHS’s security. KSDK’s sorry if you’re offended, but here’s evidence that they are right and you are wrong. ‘Imma let you finish, but … ’ Sure, I agree with them. In some aspects, KHS’s security isn’t effective. People could have died. But I’m reluctant to agree with KSDK. I’m reluctant to agree with someone who delivered their message in such a rude, intrusive and unprofessional manner … According to the Society for Professional Journalist’s (SPJ) code of ethics, journalists should ‘avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.’ KSDK could have easily avoided undercover methods. They just used the footage of the reporter walking into the school with a hidden camera. He could have walked to the office and identified himself as a reporter, avoiding the ensuing lockdown, and still acquired the crucial footage that showed KHS’s security isn’t up to scratch. The result of KSDK’s choice to use undercover methods exemplifies why those methods are discouraged in the SPJ’s code.”

Madden’s column can be found online at: http://www.thekirkwoodcall.com/_stories_/opinion/2014/01/17/where-ksdk-went-wrong-2/#sthash.yM1Mgy9e.dpuf

The Kirkwood Call’s editor-in-chief, Jane Manwarring, added, “I think school security is an extremely important issue, especially with all the school shootings that have happened across the country in the past few years. It would be much more responsible to be completely honest with the faculty about why you’re there and what you’re doing, instead of trying to pull a stunt like this. The station was unfair in choosing Kirkwood High School as the only high school with multiple entrances to ‘test.’ It seems like they were purposely targeting Kirkwood. If they wanted to be accurate, they should have chosen schools with all the same circumstances.”

Criticism of the report’s methodology continued into the weekend on both social media and calls to Channel 5’s newsroom.

There was an effort to get people to boycott watching the station.

Finally, on Jan. 19, anchor Mike Bush read a stronger, much more heartfelt apology. It was the lead story at 10 p.m. and read: “We begin tonight with an apology. By now, you may have heard that last Thursday we were working on a report that looked at school security. And in the course of doing that report, Kirkwood High School was put on lockdown. Well, it was unintentional and unnecessarily scared students, teachers and parents. And quite honestly, it doesn’t matter what our intentions were. We caused undue stress and fear, and we are very sorry this happened. I want you to know that Channel 5’s general manager, our boss, met personally with the Kirkwood superintendent to apologize in person. You should also know that our team worked all weekend taking a hard look at how this happened and what we could be doing differently to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and to prevent it. We have already begun implementing changes to make sure nothing like this will happen again. I’ve been at Channel 5 for almost 30 years, and I’ve always been proud of the fact that everybody at our television station deeply cares about our community. That we do a lot of positive stories. That we try to take the high road. In reporting this school security story, we didn’t live up to our own standards and the standards that you deserve as viewers. We can’t change the past. But our promise to you is we will make every effort to make sure nothing like this will happen in the future.”

Kirkwood publications adviser Mitch Eden feels social media was a big reason behind that apology.

“Just showing the tweets and posts on social media reminded everyone of how quickly information (accurate and inaccurate) spreads,” he said. “Ian’s piece lived a three-day news cycle, which was amazing. All the social media firestorm prompted KSDK’s lead anchor to issue a public apology Sunday evening. The power of social media was verified.”

Not everyone was happy with the apology.

“I don’t know what else Channel 5 could have done to apologize, but I still wasn’t satisfied with their apology,” Manwarring said. “It took too long, and too much backlash, for them to realize they did something wrong and admit their mistake.”

Despite the apology, Havener said that “this was a situation that could have been handled in a more productive and safe manner by KSDK.”

When asked if Channel 5 did enough after the story, Havener replied: “I still ask myself this question today. I am not sure, but we have moved on and continue to focus on the students, staff and community.”

Havener has no problem with journalists investigating school security but said there is a better way to do it.

“It should be done in partnership with the schools and law enforcement,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to improve Kirkwood High School, whether it is within curriculum, safety, opportunities for students and staff, etc. I understand the aspect of telling schools would not allow for a true test of the current system. But how about working with principals and chiefs of police, and letting us know so we do not take the testing to this level? I would have been very interested in the findings if we didn’t take it to this level and put students, staff and parents in this state of mind and situation. If it is a true activity to ensure safety, do we really need a ‘gotcha’ story for ratings?”

Despite the incident, Havener reflected the views of many when it comes to safety at the high school.

“Kids tell me they feel safe overall at Kirkwood High School, and understand that every door and window may not be locked and should not be locked at all times,” he said. “They would like Kirkwood High School to continue to be the welcoming and inviting school it has been. They have also said they have noticed in recent years the safety measures that have been implemented to make the campus more secure.”

Havener added that “overwhelmingly, the parents and community members have said, ‘Do not turn Kirkwood High School into a prison.’ They understand the layout of the school and security issues, but want Kirkwood High School to be a school with a welcoming atmosphere.”

The district estimates it lost $20,000 in lost instruction time, not to mention the Kirkwood police’s involvement.

KMOV’s former news director (he was still at the station when this incident occurred) blasted Channel 5.

“I think these kinds of stories in general are irresponsible to do,” said Sean McLaughlin. “There are too many things that can go wrong, and I don’t think most people have an expectation of airport-like security at local schools. Unfortunately, if someone is determined to do harm at a school, there’s virtually no security scenarios that would guarantee safety. Clearly there were several instances when harm could have been minimized by more effective front-end planning.”

McLaughlin noted that if the assignment desk could have confirmed Kelley’s identity, “That would have prevented the entire fiasco, eliminated kids being locked in classrooms frightened by what was happening, and avoided wasting valuable time of local law enforcement. In my opinion, this was the critical error.”

McLaughlin said the brouhaha had an impact on the Channel 4 newsroom staff.

“About the only good thing to come out of this was it did give us pause to remember the impact of the decisions we make every day,” he said. “We did discuss in our editorial meetings the mistakes that were made, the obvious ethical issues at play, and how it should have been handled at various stages by the station. It was good discussion that made us all smarter in the end.”

While Channel 4 was direct, KTVI Channel 2 evaded answering the question. News director Audrey Prywitch, in an e-mail, asked: “Who are we to judge Channel 5? We are too busy judging our own service to the viewers. We have earned their trust, and every day as journalists we work very hard to keep it.”

Both stations reported on the Channel 5 incident on their own newscasts.

The reaction from some other media was negative.

The Riverfront Times carried a news headline that read, “KSDK Investigation on School Safety in Kirkwood Reveals Journalists Are The Worst.”

The Huffington Post headline read, “TV Media Stunt Caused St. Louis High School Lockdown – What Were They Thinking?”

The Poynter Institute Web site headline was a blunt, “St. Louis TV station causes school lockdown, pisses off everyone.”

The article on the Poynter Institute website (The Poynter Institute mission statement says, in part, “The Poynter Institute is a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It promotes excellence and integrity in the practice of craft and in the practical leadership of successful businesses.”) was critical of the Channel 5 methodology writing:

“I think it is shallow and presumptuous to test the security system that way,” said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s media ethicist. “You could do it with real reporting, and talking to people who come and go often. It’s sort of a cheap and easy way to do it.”

In the Post-Dispatch, the headline for columnist Bill McClellan was, “KSDK’s school scare lures viewers but loses the room.”

Bill McClellan was critical of the station’s actions.

“I wanted to shout at the screen, ‘We don’t want you sneaking around our schools. Just give us news, weather and sports. If you want to scare the bejesus out of kids, scare your own,’ ” McClellan wrote in a column.

He also noted that KSDK’s report didn’t take into account other incidents where security was good.

“Let me tell you what school had really good security – Sandy Hook Elementary,” he wrote. “Doors were locked at 9:30 a.m. Visitors were admitted only after a visual review via a video monitor. Identification was required. KSDK would have approved. But guess what? Adam Lanza shot his way through a glass panel next to the door.”

One parent, Mark Zimmer, summed it up best in a quote in the Riverfront Times.

“This was a very poor and ill-planned way to ‘test’ a school’s security system,” Zimmer said. “They should have identified themselves upon entering the school, and should have contacted the school before entering the Kirkwood High School campus to possibly work with the administration regarding a story on security. They poorly reported on the incident, took no responsibility for their own actions, and put everyone at Kirkwood High School in potential danger.”

Media notes: St. Louis Media History Foundation inducts 21 new honorees

The St. Louis Media History Foundation has inducted 21 new honorees.

They are:

  • Russ Carter started out as a singer with the Ted Weems Orchestra but is best known in St. Louis as the host of the “St. Louis Hop,” a local, weekly “American Bandstand” program on KSD-TV, the St. Louis area’s first racially integrated television program.
  • Robert Coe began operating an amateur radio station at age 15 and co-founded KSD in 1921 at the age of 19. At 22, he was assistant manager and chief engineer. During World War II, Coe built the military communications network for the Asia-Pacific theatre and returned to help establish KSD-TV before moving on to the national ABC network television in New York.
  • Chris Condon joined KSD-TV in 1961 to anchor the station’s 10-minute news broadcast and stayed for 23 years as an anchor and reporter.
  • Sally Bixby Defty joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff in 1965 with no newspaper experience, spent three years in the “Women’s” section before becoming a general assignment reporter and the first permanent female member of the city desk staff. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a series on landlords and arson.
  • Cathy Dunkin, founder and chief executive officer of Standing Partnership, has been in public relations for more than 30 years. The St. Louis Business Journal recognized Dunkin as one of the “Most Influential Business Women in St. Louis.” She has held management positions in St. Louis, Chicago and Dallas with multinational public relations firms and Fortune 500 companies.
  • Native St. Louisan Eugene Field, best known for his children’s poetry, was a reporter for the St. Joseph (Mo.) Gazette in 1873, where he worked his way up to city editor. He went on to work for the St. Louis Journal, the Kansas City Times and the Denver Tribune. In 1883, he accepted an offer to write a humor column for the Chicago Daily News. He stayed until his death at 45 in 1895.
  • Jim Fox spent 65 years in print journalism. After retiring from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fox wrote a column for the Suburban Journals that continued even after a stroke kept him from typing. He then dictated his columns to his wife and daughter. Fox began his career at the St. Louis Star-Times.
  • Andre “Spyderman” Fuller rose from an intern reading morning news at radio station WESL, where he became program director in the 1980s. Fuller was the first disc jockey in the market to play the founding fathers of hip-hop. Later, he joined the new black-owned station Z-100 FM as program director.
  • In 1940, St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff artist Ralph Graczak originated “St. Louis Oddities,” later known as “Our Own Oddities.” Graczak’s also drew caricatures of celebrities, often featured in the Post-Dispatch’s “Everyday” section.
  • In 1953, local radio newsman Bruce Hayward was named director of news and special events at WTVI, the market’s first UHF-TV operation and the second television station in St. Louis. As the news anchor on all of the station’s newscasts, Hayward also went door-to-door helping viewers install and adjust their ultra-high-frequency antennas. When the station switched dial positions, Hayward remained with the newly named KTVI (Channel 2) as news announcer and public affairs director.
  • Don Hesse was the Globe-Democrat’s editorial cartoonist from 1951 to 1984. The Freedoms Foundation, the American Legion and the National Headliners Club honored Hesse, whose work was nationally syndicated by the Los Angeles Times and the McNaught syndicates.
  • During his 20-year Anheuser Busch, Inc. Bob Lachky oversaw development of several famous beer ad campaigns and helped the company build a 50 percent share of the U.S. beer market. He was named the 1994 Adweek “Top Marketer of the Year,” 2001 Brandweek “Marketer of the Year,” and 2009 Advertising Club of New York “Advertising Person of the Year.” He currently is president of RCL Group.
  • Jeremy Lansman brought listener-sponsored community radio to St. Louis in the form of KDNA-FM. As a teenager, he built a radio station in Hawaii, then joined Lorenzo Milam to found listener-sponsored KRAB in Seattle in 1962. With Milam’s backing, Lansman built and ran KDNA, which played an eclectic blend of music, aired live political rallies, government hearings and board of alderman meetings, news and phone-talk shows. Lansmsn and Milam sold the station in 1973 to pay off its debts and used the proceeds to fund community radio stations across the country, including KDHX in St. Louis. Lansman now owns KYES television in Anchorage, Alaska, and does engineering analysis for radio stations around the world.
  • Erma Perham Proetz, executive vice president at Gardner Advertising in St. Louis, was the first woman elected to the National Advertising Hall of Fame in 1952, eight years after her death. Perham Proetz was the first person to win the Harvard Advertising Award three times. In 1935, Fortune magazine named her one of the nation’s top 16 outstanding business women. She was elected president of the Women’s Advertising Club of St. Louis in 1936.
  • Pete Rahn created one of the first newspaper television guides. Rahn spent 49 years at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, moving from junior financial copy editor to editor of one of the television guides. Over several decades he wrote more than 7,000 columns, interviewing scores of celebrities.
  • Clif St. James worked at KSD-TV and KSD-AM from 1956 to 1988. He was a radio and television host best known as a weatherman and as “Corky the Clown.” As “Corky,” St. James played host to what may have been the first local children’s show to be broadcast in color with a live studio audience. It ran from 1954 to 1980.
  • Wilma Sim took over “Homemaking with KSD-TV” through most of the 1950s. She appeared on the first local color television broadcast and was active in American Women in Radio and Television. She moved on to become a columnist for Farm Journal Magazine and was recognized as one of the Top 10 Women in Advertising in America in 1972.
  • Robert G. Stolz founded Stolz Advertising Co., which became the third-largest advertising agency in St. Louis. Before he started the agency, he served 20 years as advertising director of Brown Shoe Co. At Brown Shoe, he helped to produce the national children’s television show “Smilin’ Ed’s Gang,” which was sponsored by the Brown Shoe Co.’s Buster Brown brand. Stolz became president of the Ad Club of St. Louis at age 29.
  • Glenn Tintera originated advertising’s use of “focus groups.” Tintera started as a research analyst in 1966 at D’Arcy Advertising Agency, and retired as executive vice president and manager of its St. Louis operation. He was named Ad Man of the Year in 1991 by the American Advertising Federation.
  • Richard Weil retired from the Post-Dispatch in 2004 as its editor for investigative projects after serving as an assistant managing editor, managing editor and executive editor. Weil co-founded the St. Louis Beacon with Margaret Wolf Freivogel and Robert W. Duffy and served as its chairman. He joined the Post-Dispatch in 1973 after 11 years at the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.
  • Clyde Skeets Yaney was an early live radio entertainer who became a disc jockey. Yaney, the “Golden Voice Yodeler,” began performing on KMOX Radio in the 1930s. He soon achieved star billing as part of the “National Champion Hillbillies,” a group featured on KMOX and the CBS Network into the 1950s. With the end of live radio entertainment, Yaney reinvented himself as a disc jockey, first on WEW and then on KSTL.

* * *

Saint Louis University communication professor Mary Gould’s fall semester undergraduate “Digital Storytelling” class gave the Sweet Potato Project’s website a makeover, a new logo and other upgrades. The Sweet Potato Project, operated by the North Area Community Development Corporation, teaches inner-city youth to grow sweet potatoes on vacant lots in North St. Louis and sell the tubers and sweet-potato cookies. Every fall semester, Gould’s class works with a nonprofit community organization to help produce multimedia material that supports the organization’s mission.

* * *

Sinclair Broadcast Group reported net broadcast revenues of $382.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 33.2 percent increase compared to the year-ago quarter.

Operating income for the quarter was $103.3 million, a 13.3 percent drop compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. The decline was caused by the absence of political revenue in the non-election year, as well as one-time acquisition costs and a loss on the sale of WSYT in Syracuse. Local net broadcast revenues were up 58.1 percent and national net broadcast revenues were down 14.2 percent because of the drop in political advertising.

“2013 was a historic year for us, including growing broadcast revenues 32.3 percent to a record-breaking $1.2 billion, and once again leading the industry on station acquisitions,” Sinclair president and chief executive officer David Smith said in a statement. “During the year we closed on the purchase of 63 television stations and added more than $1 billion in assets, which contributed $148.4 million in revenues in 2013.”

* * *

The Alestle staff at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recently won eight awards during the annual college media conference of the Illinois College Press Association.

At the conference, which took place in Chicago Feb. 21-22, the Alestle won second place for general excellence, a category in which the staff had not placed since 2009.

“It was exciting to see the Alestle recognized in all the categories in which they were, but especially in the in-depth reporting and general excellence categories,” Alestle program director Tammy Merrett-Murry said. “It’s a testament to the seriousness in which the staff approaches its work.”

Lifestyles editor Karen Martin and online editor Ben Ostermeier shared a second-place award for in-depth reporting for their series on campus wildlife, published last summer. Copy editor John Layton won a second-place award for headline writing.

Former sports editor Roger Starkey won second place for sports news story for his reporting on former wrestling head coach David Ray’s resignation. Former editor-in-chief Michelle Beard won second place for an editorial cartoon she designed on the board of trustees members’ ongoing disagreements last year.

The Alestle’s recent lifestyles series, “Metro East Eats,” won a third-place award in the entertainment supplement category.

Layton and former photographer Andrew Rathnow both received honorable mentions at ICPA for news story and sports photo, respectively.

The entries in the competition were judged for excellence by members of the Illinois Press Association, as well as other working journalists in Missouri and across the country.

* * *

David Nicklaus of St. Louis Post-Dispatch won the top award for commentary by a newspaper columnist for newspapers with an average weekday circulation of between 100,000 and 200,000 from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

* * *

St. Louis-based FleishmanHillard was a big winner at the 2014 PRWeek Awards. It won “Large PR Agency of the Year” honors. FleishmanHillard chief executive officer Dave Senay won “PR Professional of the Year – Agency.” And its “It Can Wait” campaign to end texting while driving won “Cause-Related Campaign of the Year.” Fleishman worked with AT&T on the campaign.

FleishmanHillard also has been named to the “Top Companies for Executive Women” list by the National Association for Female Executives for the fifth consecutive year. Results are based on factors such as succession planning, profit-and-loss roles, gender pay parity, support programs and work-life balance, and the results appear in Working Mother magazine.

* * *

Tony Messenger and Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch won the 2013 Walker Stone Award for Editorial Writing for deeply researched editorials that exposed political hypocrisy. Judges said their work “embodied a spirit dedicated to public welfare.” They will receive $10,000 and a trophy from the Scripps Howard Foundation at a dinner May 22 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati.

* * *

Sean McLaughlin, executive news director of KMOV since July 2007, left in February to become vice president of news for the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co.’s television division.

* * *

Kavita Kumar, retail and consumer affairs reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, left the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to return to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, where she was a reporter from 2000 to 2003. Kumar joins former Post-Dispatch business editor Todd Stone at the Minneapolis paper.

* * *

Jacob Barker has joined the business desk of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as its environmental reporter. Barker has been a business reporter and columnist at the Columbia Daily Tribune for three years. He previously wrote for the Columbia Business Times.

* * *

Jennifer Blome retired from KSDK to join the Animal Protective Association as its director of humane education. Blome had been with KSDK since 1979 and anchored its morning newscast since the early 1980s.

* * *

Native St. Louisan Alissa Reitmeier has joined KMOV as a news anchor and traffic reporter. She previously worked at WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Fla., And KFLY in Lafayette, La.

* * *

Talia Kaplan has left KSDK to be a reporter for WKRN-TV in Nashville, Tenn. Kaplan had been with KSDK since 2011, where she had been a reporter/anchor.

* * *

Local architectural historian and historic preservationist Michael Allen is now a contributing writer for Next City, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities by creating media and events around the world.

* * *

Radio One Inc. has named Jeffrey Wilson has been named regional vice president of the Midwest radio stations overseeing all six of the Midwest markets: Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis. Radio One is a diversified media company that primarily targets African-American and urban consumers. The company owns and operates 54 broadcast stations located in 16 urban markets in the United States. Wilson previously managed Radio One’s operations in Columbus, Ohio, and Cleveland.

* * *

Don Sharp is the new president of Coolfire Solutions. Sharp came to Coolfire from miSEAT in Chicago, where he was interim chief operating officer after spending more than five years at Navistar.

* * *

Robert Cohn, editor-in-chief emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light, has been re-appointed to the St. Louis County Human Rights Commission.

* * *

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications has hired Randy Micheletti as vice president, director of account service. As a veteran of several St. Louis marketing agencies, Micheletti has more than two decades of experience as a strategic marketing professional, including working for Geile/Leon from 1999 to 2004.

Slacking election night coverage exposes other website flaws

Many people now rely on the Web to get results on election nights. Such Web-savvy folks likely were frustrated with St. Louis’ local TV election-night website coverage.

Viewers would have been unable to find anything on KSDK Channel 5’s website. There was no reference to the election on the station’s main page. A search provided unrelated stories and election results from March 19. A search just for “today” uncovered nothing.

Channel 4’s main page had a big banner, making it easy to get to election results. Unfortunately, there were missing races on the website. The two races Channel 2 referred to, Kirkwood and Ferguson-Florissant, were not listed.

Channel 2’s main page also made it easy to get to results with the large banner at the top. But once the page was accessed, it loaded very slowly.

It’s hoped the TV stations’ Web departments will get their acts together.

Speaking of websites

Whoever designed Channel 5’s new website needs a lesson in what works for ordinary people. It is hard to figure out. Finding stories is nearly impossible. The organization is odd.

At 2:30 p.m. April 9, the top items included:

  • A vigil planned in Effingham for a Fort Hood victim.
  • A promo for Mike Bush’s “Making a Difference” series.
  • News that Missouri Medicaid may restore adult dental care.
  • A junk food study.
  • Where NFL Pro Bowls will be played.
  • A promo for a show about surviving tornadoes.

Below that section is one called “Headlines.” The very first of 12 items was that St. Louis was picked for a hot-dog-eating contest. Next to it, a contest to win my mortgage for a year. By that item was one asking if Albert Pujols can break the all-time home-run record.

Headlines? This was on the same day 20 people had been stabbed at a Pennsylvania high school. Readers had to be lucky to even find that story. It scrolled by in the “featured video” section halfway down the page (requires scrolling). And it was eight of 10. What was the No. 1 featured video on KSDK’s page? “Bella Twins don’t know each other’s favorite apps”:

“Twin models and professional wrestlers, the Bella Twins, can finish each other’s sentences, but do they know each other’s favorite apps?”

Someone there needs to rethink the page, because Channel 5 may bill itself “where the news come first” – but not on the Web, where many people turn to today. There, it is hard to even find the news. (See http://www.ksdk.com.)

Lampkin shines

Channel 5 has a real winner in their newest meteorologist, Chester Lampkin. The St. Louis native has been on the air since February 2013, and he just shines. He has the ability to be serious when the weather is bad and light when the weather is good. He is an excellent conversationalist with all of the anchors. And he can adapt well to whatever might happen on set, such as the wrong graphic showing up on screen. No matter what ad lib an anchor tosses to him, he handles it with style. He displays the kind of approachable personality many people can relate to as they watch him on television. Lampkin has quite a future. Unless he wants to stay in his hometown, he will have his pick of jobs in the future, whether it is a larger market or the Weather Channel. Of the many talented weather people in St. Louis, he is already one of the best.

KMOV weathers the storm nicely

Channel 4 has an often breathless style of news, in which almost every story appears to be vital to viewers. The stories and associated teases are read in an overly dramatic way, and the writing sensationalistic. So that is why the Channel 4 weather department gets kudos for its performance during recent bouts of severe weather. They did not overhype the situation, even as storms became severe. They were professional in their approach – and, while concerned about people’s safety, never tried to panic the audience. When tornado warnings were issued, they did their best to track where it might be and reported it with appropriate urgency. The responsible way they handled the storms added immense credibility to their weather folks. The news department should take notice.

St. Louis acts to address wrongful arrests

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated.

The St. Louis Police Department has instituted a new mobile fingerprint identification system in its North, South and Central Area Stations, as well as at the St. Louis City Justice Center, to help avoid wrongful arrests, according to Chief Sam Dotson.

The new fingerprint technology was put into the stations after a series in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last year maintaining that about 100 people had been arrested mistakenly over a seven-year period, serving a total of 2,000 days in jail.

Robert Patrick and Jennifer Mann, the Post-Dispatch reporters on the series, wrote that modern fingerprint identification could have prevented some wrongful arrests.

Among the cases cited in the series was one involving a city bus driver who was arrested in front of her crying children and jailed because her name was similar to another woman who had died months before. This was the result of a clerical error, but she lost her home, savings and her job, temporarily.

On March 4, without fanfare, the department launched its new Mobile Automated Fingerprint Identification System at its three area patrol stations and prisoner processing at the city’s downtown jail.  The mobile units allow police to take fingerprints on a small wireless scanning device that returns prompt results from the Missouri Highway Patrol and FBI fingerprint records. Dotson said a few mobile devices are being used by officers on patrol and more will be added so prints could be taken, on a voluntary basis, from persons at crime scenes, disasters and on the street.

Chief Dotson said he had been working on a new electronic fingerprint I.D. system even before the Post articles came out. Planning and pilot stages occurred prior to the stories and the system was fully implemented after publication, he said.

“People lie to us on occasion,” and use aliases,  he said. “We always want to make sure we know who we have,” and that means to check fingerprints “at the very front end of the incarceration process.”

While the Post and city disagree about the accuracy of some of the cases cited by the Post-Dispatch, mayoral aide Eddie Roth says improvements have been made and will continue to be made to reduce risks of error. Roth, a former police board president and Post editorial writer, has criticized the Post stories on Facebook, Twitter and in stories in GJR.

“The mis-identifications are rare. Our goal is to get to zero,” Roth said. “Our system is not perfect, but it is strong.” He said the reporters rightfully pursued an important cultural issue (wrongful arrests) but he didn’t think the stories were fair.  Roth thought the numbers of misidentifications were exaggerated, most of the cases were old and that reporters did not heed warnings that their research methods were flawed because they did not have access to all relevant records.

Patrick said the mayor’s office and circuit attorney mounted “a successful PR campaign” to downplay any harm done and “it changed the discussion to – is the story right?’

In one case the Post said a man was jailed when he had not been. A brother used the man’s name and it was the brother who was jailed. The Post corrected the mistake that had been based on city records that were incorrect. Patrick accepted the blame for not having interviewed the man.

The Board of Aldermen, state legislature, civil rights groups and many judges didn’t urge new rules to curb the wrongful arrest problem. The Post editorial page has been silent on it, though the paper’s editor Gilbert Bailon has strongly defended the stories. Lawyers are working on a federal class-action suit, but class certification initially was denied.

Guild leader says Lee Enterprises’ workers deserved bonuses

The head of the union that represents reporters and other workers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says employees of Lee Enterprises – rather than its chief executives – deserved bonuses.

On April 4, Lee Enterprises filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing the board’s executive compensation committee had approved bonuses of $700,000 for chief executive officer Mary Junck and $400,000 for treasurer Carl Schmidt. The bonuses were “related to the company’s successful completion of its long-term refinancing.”

Shannon Duffy, the administrative officer of the United Media Guild in St. Louis, said the labor organization was pleased that Lee Enterprises was able to successfully refinance its debt.

“We continue to root hard for that company to be successful,” Duffy said. “We and our members are obviously tethered to it. That being said, I was disappointed their first reaction, almost reflexive on their part, was to give more money to the people at the top when the people further down the ladder had been working, pulling double and triple duty, for less money. And my first reaction, were I in their shoes, would be to reward those people.”

In March, Lee Enterprises refinanced $800 million of its debt relating to its 2005 purchase of Pulitzer Inc., owner of the Post-Dispatch, extending the time in which its loans must be repaid. In 2013, the company repaid $98.5 million of its debt, and during the first six months of its 2014 fiscal year through March it paid off another $34.5 million.

Employees at Lee’s 46 newspapers shouldered a major share of that loan repayment through layoffs, furloughs and buyouts, frozen wages, elimination of some benefits and higher costs for others. Michael Sorkin, a reporter at the Post-Dispatch, laid out the details of what had been happening at the newspaper in a recent posting on Facebook.

“Memo to the board of directors at Lee Enterprises – could you live today on less money than you made six years ago – and pay more for fewer benefits?” Sorkin asked.

He wrote that Post-Dispatch employees hadn’t had a raise since June 6, 2008. Since then, employee costs have increased “for the worst company health insurance we’ve ever had.” Sorkin went on to point out that retiree health and life insurance were gone, pensions frozen, and for new employees there are no pensions.

In a 5½-year contract, negotiated in 2010, guild members gave up wage concessions of 6 percent and took unpaid furloughs. The recent bonuses for Junck and Schmidt came on top of substantial pay raises and bonuses they previously received.

“The top people at Lee get big bonuses while we sacrifice,” Sorkin wrote.

Duffy said the guild would be negotiating a new contract with the company next year.