A Denver, Colorado TV station, Fox affiliate KDVR Channel 31, was criticized by journalists, a parent and the school after their reporters asked two seventh-graders for photos of their recently murdered schoolmates and for interviews without parental permission, NBC-affiliate KOAA reported.
Worse, their reporters gave the Galileo School of Math and Science students rides home so they could quickly get their yearbooks for the photos, also without permission.
Husband Tommy Ogden is reported to have found his wife Rene and their 13-year-old twins, Chase and Olivia, shot dead in a tragic murder/suicide at their Colorado Springs, Colorado home Oct. 4. An autopsy determined Rene Ogden died from a self-inflicted gunshot local CBS news affiliate KYTX reported. The KDVR Channel 31 reporters were seeking details about the story.
The school found out about the car rides and interviews with their students after one of the teens’ parents e-mailed the school’s principal, the school district’s communications director Elaine Naleski told StinkyJournalism. Naleski explained the incident to StinkyJournalism via email:
“According to the parent email and a conversation with her, the reporter stopped them and asked if they had a picture of the two deceased students and if they could interview them. The student said he had one at home, and the reporter told him to get in the car, and she would take him to his home to get his yearbook. They interviewed the 2 boys, but the father of one young man would not let them use his child’s interview when he came outside to see what they were doing. The parent of the other boy did not know until a relative in the Denver area called to tell her he saw her son on TV.
“I will tell you that the lady with whom I spoke (news director) at the station was very apologetic and asked to speak to the parents to offer them her sincerest apologies. She assured me this was NOT the acceptable practice at that station,” Naleski wrote in an e-mail to StinkyJournalism.
Stacy Neumann reported Oct. 9 for NBC-affiliate KOAA that Denver, Colorado Fox affiliate KDVR Channel 31’s actions has been subject to criticism. KOAA also noted that Naleksi said the parents of the two seventh-grade students were told that “they can take civil action against the station.”
Naleski explained in her Oct. 13 e-mail to StinkyJournalism that “no one has filed a complaint to my knowledge,” but that she has spoken with the station’s news director about the matter.
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“This is not only unethical, but it’s scary,” Naleski is quoted as telling News First 5. “Media were not allowed on to the Galileo campus following of the murders and Naleski feels the KDVR news team overstepped their boundaries,” KOAA reported.
“I was angry and the principal of the school was just beside herself,” Naleski is quoted as telling KOAA.
The Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride likewise found the reporters’ behavior more “an adult boundaries issue and not journalism-ethics issue” because “you don’t put children in your car that you don’t know,” News First 5 reported.
“A child does not have the ability to consent to be a part of a story about something really, really serious, like murder,” McBride said.
In a follow-up e-mail to iMediaEthics, Naleski explained the district’s media policy, which hasn’t been changed as a result of the incident.
“As a district, we do not allow media on school property without permission, and we do not allow media interviews on school property without parent permission. While we cannot prohibit media from approaching students off school grounds, we feel that it is not appropriate to do so without parent permission. We continue, as a district, and at the school level to emphasize to our students that they do not respond to strangers and they surely do not get in the car with a stranger no matter what they tell them. This is not a change, but a continuation of our message to all our students,” Naleski wrote.
iMediaEthics has written to KDVR and will update with any response.