Monday, June 08, 2009

Fire Story Results In A Not So Slow Burn

Last Thursday's News-Press editorial took a shot at the D.A.'s office, claiming that people are "losing faith" in the office and that, "county residents are left wondering what the real story is regarding the start of the Tea Fire."

I guess the idea of the News-Press assigning a reporter to the story and digging in to write an investigative piece of its own on the origins of the Tea Fire is out of the question.

Speaking of fire-related stories, perhaps no one has felt more burned lately than the folks at KEYT.

On Friday, the Independent ran on its website a story written by intern Tyler Hayden about one of the families who lost their home in the Jesusita Fire. Unfortunately, these kind of stories are all too common, but this one contained an incendiary claim, made by a neighbor of the family who lost their home, accusing a news crew from Channel 3 of coming onto the property without permission, sifting through the family's belongings and then shooting footage of what they found.

When the story hit the web, KEYT hit the roof.

Matt Kettmann, Senior Editor at the Independent, told me that when the story was first turned in he sent it back to Hayden, the author, with instructions to call KEYT for comment. He did, multiple times, according to Kettmann, and never got a response. So they ran the story. As far as official information gathering guidelines go, the Indy covered their bases: multiple calls and an extended period of waiting which Kettmann says is standard operating procedure.

After the story was posted, Kettmann spoke at length with KEYT news director Jim Bunner, who Kettmann noted was quite disappointed. In an e-mail to me, Kettmann acknowledges, in retrospect, that he should have directly called KEYT reporter John Palminteri, who he is friendly with on a professional and social level (as am I). The Indy story has been amended to include KEYT's denial of staging news footage, and Kettmann has apologized to Palminteri for not coming straight to him.

In the meantime, the neighbor continues to maintain his confidence that the offending news crew was from KEYT and claims to be in possession of a video showing what took place.

So, have we heard the end of this? Stay tuned.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and