The CBS affiliate in Alaska has confirmed that the voice mail recording left for a Joe Miller campaign worker did come from one of their reporters and did include part of a conversation strategizing their coverage — but KTVA management denies they wanted to cook the reporting on Miller’s rally. Calling the allegations “untrue” and “absurd,” KTVA says that they were merely preparing for any eventuality. Ben Smith has the press release at Politico:
A press release issued Saturday October 30, 2010, by the Joe Miller campaign claims that KTVA personnel, “openly discuss creating, if not fabricating, two stories about Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, Joe Miller.” KTVA General Manager Jerry Bever says, “It’s unfortunate that this recording has happened. It’s unfortunate because it does not accurately reflect the journalistic standards of our newsroom and the garbled context will no doubt leave more questions than answers. The Miller campaign’s analysis of the recording is incorrect in many material ways ranging from personnel involved in the conversation, the interpretation of conversation snippets and the reported transcript of the perceived garbled conversation.”
“While the recording is real, the allegations are untrue,” said Bever. “The recording was the result of a cell phone not being hung up after a call was placed to Randy DeSoto, Joe Miller campaign spokesperson, Thursday afternoon to discuss Joe Miller’s appearance on that evening’s newscast. That phone call was placed near the end of a coverage planning meeting in our newsroom regarding that evening’s Miller rally in downtown Anchorage. The group of KTVA news personnel was reviewing potential “what-if” scenarios, discussing the likelihood of events at the rally and how KTVA might logistically disseminate any breaking news.”
Bever continues, “The perception that this garbled, out of context recording may leave is unfortunate, but to allege that our staff was discussing or planning to create or fabricate stories regarding candidate Miller is absurd. The complete conversation was about what others might be able to do to cause disruption within the Miller campaign, not what KTVA could do.”
While Bever would not discuss any personnel issues linked with the recording, Bever says “Have we had internal discussions about the level of professionalism we need to bring to our conversations, internally and externally? Of course we have, this is a lesson to learn from.”
Really? Do most news stations strategize about finding child molesters in campaign rallies? Let’s go back to the transcript:
FEMALE REPORTER: That’s up to you because you’re the expert, but that’s what I would do…I’d wait until you see who showed up because that indicates we already know something…
FEMALE REPORTER: Child molesters…
MALE REPORTER: Oh yeah… can you repeat Joe Miller’s…uh… list of people, campaign workers, which one’s the molester?
FEMALE VOICE: We know that out of all the people that will show up tonight, at least one of them will be a registered sex offender.
MALE REPORTER: You have to find that one person…
FEMALE REPORTER: And the one thing we can do is ….we won’t know….we won’t know but if there is any sort of chaos whatsoever we can put out a twitter/facebook alert: saying what the… ‘Hey Joe Miller punched at rally.’
FEMALE REPORTER: Kinda like Rand Paul…I like that.
FEMALE REPORTER: That’s a good one.
KTVA’s explanation is absurd. What possible context can they put around the suggestion that they start looking for child molesters at a political rally in order to exploit that for their television coverage? That’s a “potential what-if scenario”? Is this a suggestion that came up in strategy sessions when discussing a McAdams campaign rally?
The only absolution KTVA could have possibly had was showing that this conversation didn’t take place among their staff, but was left on the voicemail by some other people or organization. Even if KTVA approached coverage of every political event in this manner, it would be an embarrassment. In this case, it shows a strong bias against Miller and gives a window into the editorial direction at KTVA.
Next up: will CBS management take action against their affiliate?