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March 14, 2007
KCRA and the DOJ

So we recently received a press release from the Department of Justice detailing how Channel 3 "has partnered with the U.S. Attorney's Office to help organize and promote community outreach forums to schools, parents and community groups.

"In addition to preparing news reports on a variety of topics relating to Internet crimes against children, KCRA has committed part of its Web site to the issue of Internet safety...."

What's this? KCRA is teamming with the DOJ and promising to prepare news reports about the threat that Internet predators are to children?

Isn't that wading into ethically murky territory?

No, says Elliott Troshinsky, KCRA's president and general manager.

"They won't be directing our coverage in any way, shape or form," Troshinsky says, referring to the justice department. "We'll be doing that (directing the coverage). We've been doing stories on this issue for quite some time...I think it's totally ethical."

Bob Steele, however, disagrees. Steele, the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., says a news outlet "partnering" with a governmental agency presents several problems.

"The main concern is the watchdog role of journalism," Steele says. "Part of the story about Internet predators is how the justice department and U.S. Attorney protects the kids, and journalists have to report how (those agencies) are doing.

"If they are teamming up, at the very least, it gives the perception that they aren't playing the watchdog role. I find it odd that a TV station would think of doing that."

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