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November 7, 2007
Call Kurtis ... uh, Anna

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I enjoyed Kurtis Ming's special report Tuesday night on how some online shoppers get bilked by an outfit called Webloyalty, Inc., which disguises monthly charges on a user's bill.

I also liked the nearly identical report by KPIX investigative reporter Anna Werner, which aired on Nov. 2. Channel 13 has yet to post the video from Ming's report on its Web site, but, trust me, it's pretty much the same as Werner's package, only with Ming's voiceover.

(UPDATE: Channel 13 now has posted the video online. View it here.)

Throughout, Ming throws out phrases such as "the people we interviewed" and "Fernandez told us...." Turns out, it was Werner, not Ming, who did the asking. Introducing the piece, Ming boasted: "Let's see if I can figure out what's going on..."

Silly me. I thought this was actually reporting by Ming.

Sure, KPIX is a CBS sister station to KOVR, but it seems to me a reporter's got to acknowledge that his work came from another station. Example: When The Bee runs a story written by a Fresno Bee reporter, it credits the Fresno paper, right there in the byline.

But Steve Charlier, vice president of news for Channel 13, defended the use of Werner's report.

"We work with KPIX on multiple stories daily," Charlier says. "We have an open feed. Probably in a day we'd share two stories each way with KPIX. Anna and 'Call Kurtis' work together all the time and sometimes split shoots."

But what would it have hurt if Ming had added one sentence to his intro, something along the lines of "Anna Werner of KPIX filed this report"?

Charlier's response: "I resent what you're implying. We run about 200 stories a year in which a person calls Kurtis and it's strictly local and probably another 25 that the premise might come from another CBS O-and-O (owned and operated station) and we'll go out and localize.

"Then we'll probably run another 15 or so that, from a legal standpoint, the company will say, we prefer you air their story." Charlier says Tuesday night's Call Kurtis report fell into that category.

"To compare newspapers to TV in this case would be wrong. The advantage of having an O-and-O station is that you can share stories."

OK, this isn't as bad as Channel 3 recently running a video news release without attribution, but still....


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