Davis’ St. Louis TV report does disservice to public

Editor’s note: Tripp Frohlichstein, who previously was a St. Louis Journalism Review contributor, worked for Channel 4 from 1974 to 1986. He is approaching his 28th year in business as owner of MediaMasters, a company that specializes in training people to give better presentations, give better interviews to reporters and develop messaging.

In St. Louis, FOX 2’s (KTVI) Elliott Davis did a serious disservice to the public on a “You Paid For It” segment that aired July 16.

Why? Because he conducted the interview he used on that segment for a story about St. Louis Community College that originally aired back on Nov. 12.

That story focused on the $42,000 the college spent on Chancellor’s Day, a required day for faculty to attend for professional development.

The original story was based around many participants who had complained the day was worthless.

At the time, the chancellor was ineffective in her defense, simply saying it was all about success for students. However, she was unable to be specific in how that was the case.

So here’s the problem. Davis obtained the actual survey results recently. They were, indeed, poor. But Davis did not do a new interview to ask about the specific results and comments. Instead, he used clips from his interview from at least seven months ago. While he should have conducted a new interview (he owed her another chance, given how poorly the first interview came out for the chancellor), I could accept the way he handled it except for one key error: Davis did not disclose that to viewers that he used an old interview not specifically related to the survey.

Although the website has a link to the first story, unless you click on it, you would never know.

This is lazy journalism for a go-getter like Davis and is not typical of his normal efforts.

It should be noted, in an email exchange I obtained from the college, Davis asked on June 4, “Does the chancellor wish to do an interview on this issue?”

The next day, the college responded, “You have interviewed the chancellor on this subject. What information are you looking for?”

Later that day, Davis wrote, “No problem we can use what we have already.”

It seems Davis should have said he wanted to address some of the specific results – and, more importantly, what was the college going to do about the serious criticisms of the event. In other words, he should have been his usual aggressive self and done another interview.

Davis plays an important role on St. Louis television. He needs to make sure he always is giving viewers a fair look at how and why taxpayers’ money is being spent. This time, he failed.

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Kudos to meteorologist John Fuller. The Channel 11 (KPLR) weathercaster just passed 30 years on the air providing forecasts to the people of the region.

His résumé says it all.

“Fuller earned a bachelor of acience degree in meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University in May of 1975. Fuller’s first job in his field was with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Air Quality Division as an air pollution meteorologist. He then joined WJIM TV 6 in Lansing as their weekend weathercaster. From Lansing, John joined KSDK-TV in St. Louis, where he was honored with the American Meteorological Society’s seal of approval. He also received the local Emmy Award for best weathercaster during his stay at KSDK. A local favorite, John joined KPLR’s News 11 in October 2008 as chief meteorologist. He taught meteorology at University College (Washington University night school) and currently teaches at St. Louis Community College in Wildwood.”

You have to admire a guy who has persisted through all the changes in the media landscape over the years.

I also like his approach. He comes across and friendly and straightforward. He has even been described as bland – but he knows how to pull it off.

Let’s hope the local media appreciates his consistency, dedication and staying power, and keeps him on for many more years.

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Since we are on the topic of weather, I have complained multiple times about stations blocking program information to put up weather alerts. Well, all they have to do is look to Traverse City, Mich., to see how to do it right. Don’t put so much in the way of graphic art on the lower third of the screen. Just the basic information.

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