Coverage you can count on

“I felt that the ethics of Channel 2 News had fallen into ruin,” says David Bruce, 26, by way of explanation for an on-air prank he pulled last week. Bruce, former KTVN morning news director, had resigned but was fired last Thursday—on his second-to-last day—for airing six seconds of personal pictures with captions.

“He basically vandalized our good name,” says Channel 2 News general manager Lawson Fox of the former “trusted employee,” who’d worked at the station for seven years. The incident came as a “complete surprise,” Fox says. “If it were a doctor, it would be malpractice.”

The photographs and captions were benign, according to Bruce, either self-referential or pertaining to members of the news crew. They included: “David’s favorite TV personality,” accompanied by a picture of Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern Show; and “David’s favorite show quote: ‘Coverage you can come on,’”—a parody of the station’s slogan.

As of last Friday afternoon, the station had received one e-mail and a handful of phone calls concerning the material. Fox, possibly to head off complaints, went on the air Thursday at 5 p.m., the first news broadcast after the material was shown. He apologized to viewers, saying that the person responsible for airing the material was acting of his own volition and no longer worked for the station. He said that KTVN worked “hard every day to earn your trust and serve our community as a responsible source of information and entertainment.”

“But if you really take a look at Channel 2, they’re not responsible,” Bruce says. “Just look at the giveaways during news broadcasts,” referring to commercial trades where businesses get their names on the air in exchange for prizes.

“Channel 2 uses prizes as bait so more people will watch, which increases ratings so the station can charge more money for commercial airtime,” he says. Examples of prizes include tickets to buffets, fruit baskets and DVD players.

“Doesn’t it seem like a breach of news ethics for a news organization to be in bed with its advertisers?” Bruce says. “Unfortunately, management at Channel 2 doesn’t think it is. Their behavior is what’s really offensive; what I did was just a joke.”

Management is dismissive of the complaints of a newly fired employee.

“I’m not ashamed of our news promotions,” Fox says. “I’m proud of them. Every [TV] news operation in town has promotions. There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing.” He also said that promotions had been ongoing for at least five years at the station but that Bruce “never seemed to have a problem before now.”

While several news outlets have highlighted the incident, Bruce says, he wasn’t contacted for his side of the story.