The story is this — Parks Director Mike Heitz was suspended for 30 days and will undergo alcohol abuse treatment. He was suspended because WAVE-TV’s Eric Flack videotaped him leaving KT’s after having drinks. Heitz was preparing to drive away when Flack confronted him. Then Heitz decided not to drive. When Mayor Fischer heard about it, he took action.
Now, you won’t hear that full story on any of WAVE’s competitor stations. That’s because admitting another station uncovered a newsworthy story trumps the public’s right to know the full story of what’s happened.
WDRB-TV made Heitz last night’s lead story, sending Bennett Haeberle out to dig up info from Heitz’s record (he had a 2007 DUI that somehow didn’t get into his personnel file). Haeberle at least acknowledged, on the air, that another news station’s reporter was involved. He also got a citizen’s reaction, and knocked on the door at Heitz’s home, getting a no comment.
At WLKY, the Heitz story was a simple voice-over midway through the first block at 11, with nary a mention of another station. The same with WHAS-TV’s 10 p.m. news. I couldn’t find a mention of it on the WHAS website. Same for WLKY.
WAVE is saving the full details of its investigation for tonight at 6. They will be, and should, promote the heck out of it today. It had two stories — one of the basics of the suspension, and another with reaction from a citizen.
The Courier-Journal reported on the incident with full details, including Flack’s involvement.
Competition among stations is a really good thing for viewers, most of the time. But when stations fail to tell the whole story about a public official being suspended, for fear of highlighting a rival’s work, it’s not.