As you may recall, KIRO-tv did a story about a Leschi custodian, Chester Harris, who, it was claimed, was "bullying" students. As it turns out, it was one family and their issues at the school (they were told to only drop off and pick up their child because of their continuing complaints against many staff members).
The custodian's union, Local 609, had asked KIRO to retract their reports and they wouldn't. I've seen these things and boy, it's not good or fair journalism.
The union took this to the Washington News Council, a media oversight group, and last Saturday there was a "mock trial" over the work of the reporter Chris Halsne at KIRO. From the Stranger Slog write-up of the three-hour event:
After a three-hour-long proceeding, supervised by retired appeals
court judge Karen Seinfeld, eight members of the News Council's panel
voted unanimously that Halsne and his employer, KIRO TV, had
inaccurately described Harris as "manhandling" and "bullying" students
at Leschi, and unfairly damaged Harris's reputation.
Seven of the panelists voted that KIRO is now obliged, "under
generally accepted media-ethics codes," to retract its stories on
Harris, remove them from its web site, air a follow-up story setting the
record straight, and "apologize to all those whose reputations were
KIRO did not send Mr. Halsne or any rep to the event.
The WNC doesn't have any power to punish KIRO but I would think the public shame might make them rethink how this reporter creates his stories. They have said they stand by their stories.
The district weighed in:
In a letter to KIRO sent after the story aired, Seattle School
District spokeswoman Holly Ferguson pointed out that Halsne's own hidden
camera footage appears to show Harris did nothing wrong. "From your
video, it appears Mr. Harris and another adult acted appropriately to
intervene with an upset student," Ferguson wrote. "Mr. Harris is very
well respected in the school community and our staff and families are
very upset by your coverage."
"We believe it is inappropriate for you to have included under-cover
camera footage of our students that clearly identifies their faces.
While you did blur one student's face, the others were clearly
recognizable. The families of these children are very upset and our
principal reports that one of the students was in tears today as a
result of your having him on television last night. We request that you
take down the video immediately to protect the identity of these
She added that KIRO had, in advance of Halsne's initial story, been
provided with school district documentation showing that the school
district—and the Seattle Police—had investigated the past allegations
against Harris and found "no information to suggest any wrongdoing."
Here's what parent Laura McMahon, a former journalist herself and parent at Leschi said of Mr. Harris:
“He is a very strong African-American example to a lot of the male
students at our school—and also to the female students, like my
daughter, who went up to him and gave him a hug," McMahon said. “I
thought the character assassination on KIRO TV was just unwarranted… This
is a good man.”
Good for the union for sticking up for its member, good for the district for speaking up for their employee and good for the Leschi for supporting a trusted member of their community.
Not good, KIRO.