In the fight of our time in local news, where do you put your effort? What story or principle drives you to go right up to the line and take a stand? What’s so important at this pivotal moment in local journalism that getting it done’s–arguably–even worth important than even possibly being wrong?
In Ft. Myers, obviously, the answer: porn stars.
Yup. No momentous battle over outfitting reporters with cameras, or breaking stories online at the expense of the six o’clock news. No dustup over linking or the shifting world of attribution online. Certainly no heated debate over cost-cutting, news sharing agreements or grounding choppers. No, the fight right now in Ft. Myers is over one station’s use of another’s “exclusive” with a porn star, Anabela Mota.
In Ft. Myers–have you been following this story? It’s way more interesting and visual than health care, and you’ve done that cash-for-clunkers deal to death, right? Anyway, it’s pretty justifiable since, technically, it’s a political story: Fort Myers Beach town manager Scott Janke got fired recently after town officials learned his wife, the lovely Ms. Mota, is also known in porn circles as Jazella Moore, whose website includes this biographical tidbit: “I discovered that by approaching sexual pleasure resolved of guilt and fear and with need distilled to shared, creative adventure, the paradox of the Madonna/Whore was broken and with that the power of ecstatic joy could triumph. So I became a priestess of the erotic arts.”
When the former town manager and his bride appeared on CBS’ The Early Show, it was, of course, high-five time in the newsroom of Ft. Myers CBS station WINK-TV. But the crew at NBC station WBBH rolled tape on the interview and turned around a clip for their newscasts, citing “fair use.” [Not to get all capital J journalistic on you, but "fair use" is defined as the use of limited amounts of copyrighted material for the purposes of commentary, criticism and parody, without seeking permission to use said material from the copyright holder]
Didn’t see the WBBH newscast, but perhaps they really were using the porn star interview for the purposes of classic commentary and criticism. Benefit of the doubt and all.
“It is fair use. Our attorney agrees it was fair use,” Darrel Adams, WBBH news director, told the Ft. Myers News-Press. “It was the first time a major news maker in our market was talking. It’s that cut and dried.” (Am I nuts, but if I, as a local news reporter, get a major newsmaker to talk for the first time about a big story, isn’t that the essence of an exclusive, and precisely the opposite of a story that other stations have the legal right to cherry-pick just because it’s BIG?)
And you ever notice how–sweeping and unfair generalization here of course–it’s always newspapers sending lawyer to court to fight over access to governmental records and access to courtrooms, while television stations usually only pay the lawyer (or threaten to) when it’s about a piece of tabloid video or a gruesome 911 call involving a family member pleading for help as gunmen storm their home? What’s up with that?
The “fair use” fight over a fluff interview with a low-level government employee and his priestess of the erotic arts will surely boost local TV’s standing in this regard.
But hey–I’m sure the numbers were up.