This post is a commentary compiled by El Paso Times staff.
Channel 7-KVIA was oozing with "mea culpas" the other night, apologizing profusely for what some viewers obviously perceived as overly aggressive, sensational journalism.
Judging from an on-air report, it seemed as if a Channel 7 camera crew stalked KTSM's Adrienne Alvarez at her Santa Teresa, N.M., home and then tried to hound her for a quote. Alvarez, one of the lead anchors at KTSM, had earlier been booked on charges stemming from a domestic incident. (Read the El Paso Times story here.)
KVIA also posted Alvarez's mug shot on their Facebook page and Twitter after her arrest.
While Alvarez is clearly a public figure and therefore held to a higher standard like most of us in the news media, some commentators on digital media suggested KVIA overstepped the boundaries of responsible journalism.
Arguably, the arrest of a local television station's main anchor is pretty big news. In this case, it created enough buzz to catch the attention of the U.K.'s Daily Mail. And when big news breaks, reporters usually go to great lengths to get both sides of the story.
Here's KVIA's apology as stated by anchor Estela Casas on earlier this week:
"Well last night we aired a story about KTSM's Adrienne Alvarez. It was a misguided attempt to provide someone accused of wrongdoing a chance to explain her side of the story. However, we exercised an error in judgment. That type of report does not meet our standards for ethics or journalism and what you've come to expect from ABC-7. We assure you this has been a learning experience for those involved. We apologized at the end of yesterday's newscast and we apologize again tonight."
Despite the apology, several KVIA viewers took to the station's Facebook page to complain. One viewer posted a mug shot of former KVIA morning weatherman Jorge Torres, who was arrested in January on a public intoxication charge, which was later dismissed. KVIA officials responded by stating they aired a story about Torres' arrest, and that a search of their website would result in a link to the story.
However, a search by the El Paso Times of KVIA's website for their story on Torres' arrest came up fruitless, and a link was not provided by the station.
In speaking with reporters and photographers at other area stations, they all agree there is an unwritten rule among them that one station does not report on another when one of their employees is arrested. When Torres was arrested, no other station picked up the story.
When the El Paso Times ran a story of Torres' arrest, several readers asked if the Times would report on their reporters and editors if they were arrested. In recent years, the Times has reported on the arrests of at least two now-former employees on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (they left the paper not because of their arrests, but because of other employment opportunities).
We're also a low-key and tight-knit bunch. Nowadays most of us have families and tend to spend time at home instead of going out. In the past, Times reporters usually gathered at each other's homes, and didn't hesitate to spend the night if we were too drunk to drive.
But it's understood around here if we get into trouble, we can expect to have our mug shots prominently displayed in the paper.
What do you think? Should stations report on the arrest of a rival station's reporter or anchor? Did KVIA go too far? Was KVIA right in apologizing?