There were plenty of worthy stories in the news yesterday. There was a shooting. The Taylor Swift show was drawing a big crowd downtown. The police chief’s son was arrested. There was the announcement that the cross-River shuttle was being suspended by the city.
But WHAS-TV took the unusual step of leading its 5:30 newscast with the story about a rival station’s anchor. WHAS-TV’s Gene Kang spent the day yesterday tracking down a 19-year-old African-American man who said he heard Lindsay Allen say the N-word during a Monday morning segment.
In most cases, TV stations are hesitant to report bad news about their rival station’s personalities. Even when they’re in trouble with the law, the news doesn’t lead the newscast on rival stations. When WLKY’s John Boel was arrested with a DUI, I don’t recall it leading any newscasts on other stations.
WAVE and WLKY ignored the story about Allen. WDRB did a story highlighting Allen’s apology to viewers who she said “may have misunderstood” what she said. But WHAS-TV featured Kang’s piece as its 5:30 lead, interviewing the accuser and asking several people on the street what they heard.
Which makes you wonder if there’s some bad blood between the stations, especially since WHAS recently added a newscast at 4 which competes with WDRB’s.
“That’s nonsense,” said WHAS news director Mark Neerman today.
Instead, Neerman said it was the station’s responsibility to add balance and context to a story that, he says, was already out there through sites like this one.
“For us to ignore it wouldn’t be right,” he said. “Our role is to fact-check and present both sides of a story that might be getting only one side presented on the web.”
There’s been a ton of debate (much of it on this website) over whether or not Allen said the N-word, whether she meant to say it, or whether people are hearing something that’s not there. I don’t think anyone will ever know for sure. But the story certainly went viral, and has been much talked about around town.
Anthony Fresh, the 19-year-old who brought the story to my attention, says the story isn’t over, that he’s organizing a protest for this afternoon.