Ron Fineman, who runs the subscription site On the Record, objects to KTLA news director Jeff Wald being given an award by the L.A. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Among his complaints:
Remember, it was under Wald that anchor Lynette Romero (along with Mark Kriski) co-hosted an infomercial show for cable outlets. I was never able to get Wald or his GM to comment on it. How can a Journalist of the Year allow that, and then not even be willing to defend it?...
No TV news department is worse than KTLA when it comes to planting promos for their network as news stories...
KTLA is also a station which more than others, tends to identify criminal suspects by race and ethnicity, even when there is no detailed description to go with it, and sometimes no description at all.
Fineman also posts mail from (anonymous) KTLA staffers who feel as he does. If Wald or other staffers care to disagree, we'll print the response. By the way, Channel 5's "News at Ten" led the Fox 11 news in the November Nielsen ratings for the 10 p.m. slot they share.
Update Friday: SPJ President Tom Clanin responds in today's On the Record, defending the honor being given to Wald. He writes in part:
Questions and criticism can be leveled at virtually any nominee - particularly after the fact - and there's no denying that broadcast news executives confront difficult ethical choices every day in balancing traditional news values against the financial pressures imposed by a very expensive division of a publicly held corporation in a brutally competitive market.
That said, a majority of our board felt that overall, throughout the course of his entire career, Jeff Wald nevertheless has demonstrated a laudable effort to honor the journalistic standards embraced by SPJ and has made significant contributions toward maintaining and even improving the quality of television news in Los Angeles.
Wald was chosen in part because of his work with aspiring journalists at UCLA. I'm told that his students think very highly of him and that he spends time with them in KTLA's newsroom and elsewhere outside the classroom.
Our board did discuss whether honoring him would be giving some sort of implied approval of some of KTLA's questionable practices, but we decided we can't blame the employees for the policies set by their corporate owners. I don't know of any local TV station - or broadcast network, for that matter - whose news programs don't sometimes promote their entertainment programming or occasionally pander to outside interests. The decisions to put rating and profits above good journalism are made by the people in the corner offices, not by the news directors. I also can't blame Wald for the perceived bias of KTLA reporters.
Fineman is not satisfied: "I'm not saying Jeff Wald is the worst guy in the world. (KTLA's news is probably the least sensational in LA). But I am saying that if you are going to name someone as a Journalist of the Year, he should have a much better track record than Wald has. That person should really be outstanding.'