WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Creating Spin and Reporting on Spin

Apr 19, 2016

St Louis TV station KTVI recently announced it hired Sara Dayley to be a weekend anchor and reporter.  This is of interest to the Shop Talk panel because Dayley is also the public liaison for a public, tax-supported EMS and fire protection district. 

Joe Holleman of the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported Dayley described her job with the public district as her "Number 1 priority."

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton said the station must have been desperate to add Dayley to the staff because it’s wading into murky ethical waters.   Crighton said the station intends to avoid having Dayley read stories about the district, but she wonders what will happen if Dayley is the only anchor available on a particular day when there is breaking news about the district.

Panelist Jonathan Ahl said the simple appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest could cause headaches for the station.  He said it was not a good idea to hire Dayley while she’s also serving as the spokesperson for a public entity.

Panelist Rich Egger wondered what will happen if something newsworthy happens regarding the district. Will she suppress a story because the district is her “Number 1 priority?”

Egger also wondered how his fellow panelists felt about reporting on Western Illinois University, given that they are employed by the University, which – like the EMS and fire protection district – is a public entity.

Crighton said her job is to teach journalism and make sure reporting is done correctly.  She said that means students might sometimes produce stories that make Western look bad.

Ahl said Dayley’s public district job is to put a positive spin on information, which is the opposite of what reporters are paid to do.  He said the panelists’ jobs at Western are not in University Relations, they’re in journalism related fields.