September 9, 2001, Rocky Mountain News

by David Kopel

KUSA-Channel 9 recently demoted the Maury Povich show to the 2 a.m. slot, removing it from daytime airing. Denver Post TV critic Joanne Ostrow reported that KUSA President Roger Ogden said, "Frankly it's been embarrassing having Maury on this station for the last 2 1/ 2 years. We felt the show is not consistent with the image of the station."

I checked the Web site for Maury, and found recent programming gems such as "Jeremy and Keayra were living together, but when she became pregnant, he wanted her out of the house. Now, they're fighting over whether the baby is his or his best friend's . . ." Or, "Dan came on the show hoping to prove that his ex-wife's child is his. Teresa wasn't sure, because she had been sleeping with someone else. Will Dan's wish come true?"

But if shows like these don't fit Channel 9's image, then why does Channel 9 air, every single weekday, shows like Montel Williams? When I tuned in last Tuesday, the show was soliciting guests for a segment on "Does your lover deny that he fathered another woman's child?"

Then there's The People's Court. Tuesday's trash TV segment featured "trials" involving a woman who stole some property from her in-laws because her ex-husband hadn't paid child support; a man who sued his brother for failing to repay the man's costs of sending underwear and bedsheets to the brother during a prison stretch several decades before; and a man suing a "tramp" who allegedly tricked him into paying for her divorce.

Are these shows consistent with Channel 9's image?

Herb Brubaker, president of the Television News Center (a Maryland-based consulting firm for media organizations) recently summarized a problem with local television news: " 'Death, destruction, murder and mayhem' are themes permeating local news . . . even though surveys indicate the local news viewership is declining, and lack of credibility may be a reason. The 'watch us or you will die' mentality is backfiring." A good example of the problem was a recent segment of the "Children First" news feature on KRDO-Channel 13 in Colorado Springs.

The segment featured a re-enactment of an incident in which an 12-year-old boy killed himself through careless, unsupervised play with a gun. The KRDO host then complained that bills to stop this kind of death have been killed eight years in a row in the Colorado legislature.

KRDO never informed its viewers that the "news" segment of the accident was old footage from an incident that occurred more than a decade ago in another state. Nor did KRDO supply its viewers with the relevant statistics about gun accidents involving children - which happen to be at all-time lows in Colorado and nationwide.

KRDO's news director and other management officials did not respond to my e-mail asking for comments on the story. Nor did the station respond to inquiries from a local community group, the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition.

A Sept. 4 Post story covered the Denver Labor Day rally for "undocumented immigrants" - the p.c. term for illegal aliens. The Rocky Mountain News story of the same event called them the same thing. This euphemism misstates what's really illegal. The crime isn't merely the lack of documentation - as when a legal driver forgets to carry her driver's license. Rather, the person's very presence in the United States is illegal. Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like calling a trespasser an "undocumented visitor" or a 12-year-old joyrider an "undocumented driver."

While the News covered various angles of the Labor Day parade, the Post focused exclusively on the pro-illegal issue. The Post offered a variety of quotes from proponents of amnesty for illegal aliens, but nothing from the other side. In contrast, when the Post covered Rep. Tom Tancredo and Dick Lamm's proposal to lower immigration rates, opponents were given extensive space.

The News and the Post both offered uncritical coverage (Aug. 30) of a report from the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, a group that promotes greater spending on welfare and similar programs. The study estimated that a single parent with a preschooler and an older child needs to earn $18.90 per hour in Denver to pay for necessities. Neither article included a quote from anyone critical of the study. Instead, both articles concluded with positive statements from Jennifer Brooks, who was identified with the organization Wider Opportunities for Women. In fact, Brooks was the co-author of the
study - as the title page of the study clearly indicated, but as neither paper told its readers.

A Post special feature (Aug. 26) on Colorado State University football included a large photo of a professor and two football players, purporting to be engaged in a microscopic examination of cancerous rat brain cells - even though the players were several feet from the microscope and arrayed in full football gear. Why set up such an obviously posed shot and pretend that it's real? The only people who really perform scientific research while wearing brightly-colored uniforms are folks like Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) or Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic).

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