The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee dismissed its medical reporter Kimberly Kane last week. Kane had worked at the station for seven years. The station’s news director did not respond to the newspaper’s e-mails asking about the reporter’s status.
The TV reporter told the newspaper in an e-mail: “When the most recent administration took over leadership of our newsroom, it was made clear to me their commitment to health was different. I was told to take my stories in a different direction: more controversies, more excitement . . . “
She said some of these changes made her “uncomfortable.”
No one on the outside can judge a personnel matter. But her statement that management was pushing her toward more controversies and more excitement certainly aligns with what most of us receive in local TV health news – an abyss for consumers who need fact more than flash, who need evidence-based reporting more than emotion, who need health policy news more than breathless breakthrough gee-whiz gushing.
Incidentally, the station in question, WTMJ, is where I began my journalism career 34 years ago. The newsroom then had a bunch of veteran newspeople. Many were much older than anyone you see on the air today. They were much more than pretty faces. They knew the city and they knew its people and politics and budgets. They knew what viewers cared about and they reported what they needed to know – not what some consultant told them people wanted to see. They knew B.S. when they heard it. And they never – NEVER – followed what was in the newspaper. They originated their own stories. Show me a TV station that matches that description today. And never would someone have been canned because he/she didn’t generate enough controversy or excitement in the news. But that was a long time ago.