Regular readers know that here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we aren't usually at a loss for words when the subject is "19 Action News", the dual-headed monstrosity that occupies airtime at Raycom's local CBS affiliate, WOIO/19, and sister UPN-to-become-MyNetworkTV affiliate, WUAB/43.
We've hit that inability to say much more with this story, which we found in Saturday's "Tipoff" column by the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Michael K. McIntyre.
We find it hard to improve on the original, so we'll put up a few choice quotes about how WOIO handled a story of an "after hours strip joint" which led to the arrest of a local coffee shop owner...
Reporter Matt Stevens referred to "a woman who just arrived with a date" paying $20 each to get in and then engaging with a nude dancer in "an hourlong relationship that could easily be used as a definition of obscenity." The man and woman, their anonymity protected, were then interviewed about what "our undercover camera" caught.
What the reporter failed to tell viewers was that the woman, who works at a local legitimate strip joint, and a man were recruited and paid several hundred dollars by the station to get lewd undercover video. And they didn't sit there passively in the one-hour obscenity session.
For his defense, 19 Action News news director Dan Salamone tells McIntyre that he needed to hire the ringers because he was having trouble getting usable video with his regular news production staffers. Oh, boy. The cost of getting video of a situation Salamone says he really wanted to "expose" (ahem)?
"$300, including cocktails", says Salamone to the PD. Nice work if you can get it, no?
It reminds of us of the Los Angeles market, where video cameras roll every day taping this kind of stuff. Only the footage is not paid for by TV news operations - as far as we know. It gets transfered to tape and DVD and gets sold behind the curtain at the local low-rent video store, and is sold all over the Internet.
Say, Mr. Salamone! If you have trouble getting naughty stuff on video in the future, for a story on naked people...remember, in your own Reserve Square newsroom, you have an attractive female anchor who's willingly shed her clothes for your own cameras before. In public, even! For a news story! The money you put aside in this story for paying "interviewees" could have just been added to her bonus check.
Of note - McIntyre says the "pay for sex sources" story has hit a sour note even with some WITHIN that very newsroom.
When Mr. Salamone was hired as news director at WOIO/WUAB, he had been a manager at a Portland OR station with a far less, umm, unseemly reputation. We wondered how he'd fit in at Cleveland's 19 Tabloid News. We guess it didn't take long for him to do so.
OK, so we DID have a little more to say...