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Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

WJW report sparks call for investigation
Tom Merriman’s first day on the air-April 29, which was during the May book-at Fox-owned WJW-TV, Cleveland, generated a letter from 13 members of Congress to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking for an investigation into U.S. military involvement with South Korean brothels. Mr. Merriman, a former reporter at rival ABC affiliate WEWS-TV, reported a story on seven Cleveland massage parlors, revealing that many of the women employees started out as prostitutes in South Korean brothels. The report said that in South Korea, many prostitutes sell sex to American GIs. WJW sent a team to South Korea and used hidden cameras to reveal that military officers were assigned to patrol brothels and bars to ensure American soldiers were not in danger. There are 37,000 American GIs still in Korea.
“We didn’t want to do a cheesy sex story-there is nothing interesting about that,” Mr. Merriman said. “There are real human rights questions: Where do these women come from, and are they really free?” The Harvard Law School grad said of the undercover experience, “It was kind of dicey. Here we are in foreign country with hidden cameras. Our objective was to get our tape and go home safely with the tapes, that was key.” Mr. Merriman, once Cleveland’s deputy attorney general, had a hand in shutting down two area massage parlors in addition to illegal telemarketing operations when he was practicing law. Since his May sweeps piece, the local Warren City Council is taking steps to close the massage parlors.
Brouhaha over Chicago murders story
Larry Yellen, an investigative reporter at Fox-owned WFLD-TV, Chicago, was busy last week following up on the Brown’s Chicken murder story. Police last month arrested two suspects for what had been an unsolved 1993 massacre of seven people at the restaurant. There has been some controversy in the market over who broke the story May 16, the day police went to arrest the two suspects. Mr. Yellen reported the information to his newsroom, and a one-minute voice-over was read by WFLD anchor Walter Jacobson at 9:44 p.m. Sixteen minutes later, CBS-owned WBBM-TV led its 10 p.m. newscast with a much more detailed report on the arrest-to which nine minutes of team coverage, anchored by Linda MacLennan, was devoted.
The next day, WBBM was credited in newspapers with breaking the story. But Mr. Yellen maintains he was first. “We’re proud of the fact we broke the story that night,“ said Mr. Yellen, who is also a lawyer. And WBBM is sticking with its claim. “While other stations in the market may claim to have broken the story, clearly, without our report, the newspapers would not have had a cover story,” said Walt DeHaven, WBBM general manager. “This was one of the worst mass murders to have been committed in our area in over a decade-to give the report any less time than we did would be irresponsible.”
Bauer-Gonzales to add KCBS duties
The word around Los Angeles is that KCAL-TV news director Nancy Bauer-Gonzales will assume the role of news director for both KCAL and KCBS-TV. A CBS spokesman declined to comment. Ms. Bauer-Gonzales left her news director job at rival KNBC-TV last August and went to KCAL.
KDFW alone with live car chase
Fox-owned KDFW-TV in Dallas was the only local station to carry a car chase live during its noon news on June 4. KDFW happened to be airing the chase when the driver of the stolen pickup truck crashed into a support column of a highway overpass. Other stations in the market were on the chase but were not carrying the crash live. The driver was pulled away from the truck on the air, alive but in critical condition. Maria Barrs, KDFW news director said the short chase started out slow and later hit about 80 miles per hour. “If it had continued the way it started off, we wouldn’t have taken it live,” she said. NBC-owned KXAS-TV News director Susan Tully said her station has no policy on car chases and that every news item is evaluated individually. ABC affiliate WFAA had a backup chopper on the chase but opted not to go live.
David Duitch, WFAA VP of news, said: “When the truck hit the bridge embankment, I thought we were watching a guy kill himself live on television. We are not in the business of airing the moment of death on live television.” In other news at WFAA last week, the station announced a broad news and weather partnership with WBAP-AM, the ABC-owned radio news leader. WBAP had a weather partnership with KXAS for 50 years before that.