The Broadcast Media’s Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others What You Will Use Cronyism To Stop Others From Doing Unto You”

Two Denver TV stations are feuding, and why? Because one of them refused to allow the other to suppress news footage that was embarrassing to a news anchor.

On February 8, KUSA-Channel 9 news anchor Kyle Dyer was interviewing the owner of Max, an 85-pound Argentine Mastiff, and the firefighter who had rescued the dog from an icy pond. I saw the video. Dyer had me wincing throughout the interview, showing herself to be the most dangerous kind of dog lover, someone who is fond of animals but naive and ignorant about their behavior.  She kept rubbing the dog’s ears and face during the interview, and the mastiff was obviously stoic but stressed by the strange environment, the cameras, and this women talking and running her hands all over him.  Mastiffs are gentle dogs, but very shy;  it was clear to me that Dyer was not according sufficient respect and caution to a powerful creature. As the interview ended, she suddenly moved in to kiss the dog on the muzzle, and the dog reacted defensively, biting her on the face and taking off part of her lip. She was seriously injured, and she had to have 75 stitches.

Kyle Dyer and the Mastiff, before...

Naturally, video of the incident quickly appeared on YouTube, and Channel 9 officials not only took steps to have it removed, they also asked the local stations not to show the footage, “out of concern for Kyle and her family.”  All of Denver’s other channels complied, except the Fox outlet. Ed Kosowski, vice president-news director for Fox 31 KDVR and KWGN-Channel 2,  ignored KUSA-Channel 9’s plea  and called those who complied “wimps” who “caved in to pressure from KUSA.”

The name calling was unnecessary, but it was Kosowski who made the right and ethical call. Channel 9 actively tried to keep the facts of the incident secret, downplaying the severity of Dyer’s injuries in medical updates it released that day. Viewers were told only that Dyer had been taken to the hospital for treatment, not that she was undergoing emergency reconstructive surgery.Then the station’s management recruited the other broadcast media in its cover-up. How dare they? The media reports the news, and concern for family and co-workers seldom enters into the decision to go with the juiciest story. Ah, but when a member of the club is at the center of the story, then the media feels it has the right to protect its own. This is a bright-line breach of ethics and integrity—not surprising, but not to be tolerated.

Fox 31 did its duty to the public, and, incredibly, is being criticized for it.  John Moore, writing for the Denver Post, rationalizes that “if Channel 9 is guilty here, better to be guilty of restraint than outright classlessness.” “Restraint”? How about “censoring the news for its own comfort”?  Fox 31 isn’t “classless” it is doing its job. My friends at Fark headlined the story this way: “After their anchor’s lip was bitten off on live TV, 9News asked the other networks not to air the video. Guess which channel was the only one not to honor the request. Go ahead, guess”…the implication being that this was just another example of Fox skirting the rules. Wrong, This was an example of Fox being the only one following the rules.

It isn’t as if the video has merely sensational value: it can save lives and lips. I am deeply sorry for what happened to  Ms. Dyer, but she was 100% at fault, and the video carries a valuable lesson about how not to interact with dogs, on camera or off.

The other lesson of this episode is that much of the news media can dish out tough news reporting and the relentless glare of publicity, but can’t take it. These are hypocrites, piously making speeches about “the public’s right to know,” but quick to use cronyism to protect themselves from similar scrutiny. On his Facebook page,  9News entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery posted that there’s a special place in Hell for whoever at the local Fox affiliate has chosen to keep airing the video.  No, the special place is in Ethics Hell,  for the unethical journalists who think they have a right to apply a different standard of what’s newsworthy to themselves than they ruthlessly apply to the rest of us.

14 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society

14 responses to “The Broadcast Media’s Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others What You Will Use Cronyism To Stop Others From Doing Unto You”

  1. fattymoon

    Totally agree with your commentary.

  2. I like animals, but like people, you have to respect them. Sometimes more.

    • Oh, btw, Kyle’s station should have run the story and beat everyone else to the punch. It was great learning lesson to many animal lovers about thinking before doing.

    • Arthur in Maine

      Always more. Many animals will seem to be something else so they can eat, but us humans are the only creatures on God’s Green Earth who have guile. Or think we do.

  3. Tim LeVier

    So, I’m local, this pretty much swept the town. 9News did have a comprehensive report later that day and showed the bite over and over again, even in slow motion during that report. That report was what I was able to find on the internet…so they really fed their own fire.

    Interestingly enough, Channel 9 KUSA is the premiere station in town that has basically fed the anchor talent to all of the other local stations. The Denver news community, from my vantage point, is one homogenous family regardless of the fact that there are 5 stations.

  4. Michael

    I don’t know. I think the name calling was mild on the part of the Fox affiliate. Channel 9 called the Fox affiliate classless. The Fox affiliate called the other channels wimps. I think that the wimps comment can be justified on two counts.

    (1) If the news organizations refused to stand up to another news organization that told them to cover-up or distort a story, then they are most certainly ‘wimps’.

    (2) The news hurts people. Any time they report on someone charged with murder, how does that affect the suspect’s mother, their children? If the news channels are OK with doing that to people they don’t know or people they don’t care about, but they don’t have the stomach to do their job when someone they know will suffer the same fate, they they are indeed ‘wimps’.

    There is a third option that is worse. If they only report the news if the people hurt by it are people they don’t like, and they actively work to distort or cover-up the news when it would hurt people they do like, then they are worse than wimps. This is the heart of the problem with the partisan news today and apparently what the Fark editors think is the proper state of affairs.

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