KCTV5's journalistic ethics, strange donations and lots of questions

Andrei Stoica - Managing Editor

Police response to the George Floyd protests on May 31st. Kansas City, Missouri

Photo by Andrei Stoica

KCTV5's journalistic ethics, strange donations and lots of questions

9/18/2020- Kansas City, Missouri

By Andrei Stoica

This last Friday, while watching TV, I came across a sight on KCTV5 that is rarer and rarer in the age of GoFundMes and Kickstarters: an old fashioned telethon. That means phone banks ringing, a strange number of cops answering them, cheesy comments from the hosts and local spokespeople putting on a show to help a seemingly small, local non-profit: The Hero Fund USA.

Seeing this, my first question, besides “How did I travel back in time?” was “What’s all this about?”. While not as exciting as time travel, this experience left me just as confused as the theory of relativity.

At first glance, their goals seem well-intentioned. The Hero Fund USA appears to be a small, hometown charity that as they put it “provides direct funding for preventative/safety measures and equipment” --a needed resource in the middle of a pandemic, especially medical professionals, who were seeing major shortages of equipment just this spring. It’s only after looking at their website that the confusing questions begin. Questions like, “Why do their URLs mention “police prayers” on a page about what they purchase for all first responders?” Then again, maybe they had a bad web designer, or maybe it’s just bias.

But then, "Why do they list bean bag shotguns as priority safety items, above body cameras, which they consider low priority?” Maybe they like shooting more than accountability.

“Why does a fire department of twelve firefighters, in a town of 610 people, with a reported violent crime rate of 0% for 2018 according to a FBI crime report, need six bulletproof vests?” or “Why did they “help” fund a $20,000 drone that still cost Benton county $5,000 of taxpayer money instead of protective equipment?”

And for my final question, the one that bothers me most from a journalist’s standpoint: how did an organization with such tone deaf spending practices get coverage on a local channel, to get more money from public donations, without that station looking into how it’s used? Well, that last one will probably be the tougher one to get an honest answer to, based on the way KCTV5 usually skews their reporting more favorably of the police than other stations.

For example, at the beginning of the George Floyd protests, they ran an article that inaccurately framed protesters as continuing aggression towards officers. The article itself never mentioned when the claimed events happened. They released the article days after the police stopped escalating and creating tense situations and days after the incident they reported on without a date. Something categorised as easily fixable by one of their reporters, a fix that still wasn't taken care of two months later.

Another more recent example is when they brought in a former cop to go on record in another article to say this about an incident that the ACLU addressed in an open letter to the city, over the questionable arrests and militarized response: “Nobody should be out raged that that gentleman was arrested" and "could’ve been very dangerous to the officer to answer the woman that they were attempting to arrest at that point" among other excuses. Maybe that's normal practice.

Maybe militarizing police in the name of ‘safety’ might seem normal to them too, and to a board of directors of a non-profit that includes a police chief, but setting interests of the board aside, it still makes one wonder why military equipment has taken priority this year over life-saving PPE for first responders and why KCTV5, who has been helping this organization garner donations since its inception, didn't bother to ask that question long before I did.