Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Setting the Record Straight

MediaWatch, on one of its many blogs, reports that they think Kelly Gabriel is 21Alive’s “ace reporter.”

They’re wrong.

WPTA’s ace reporter, as anyone who watches their newscasts knows, is Jeff Neumeyer. It’s clear from his reports that he takes his job seriously, and pursues information like a print journalist. (That's a compliment.) He is his station’s best at reporting via live remote, which we think is the most difficult task for on-camera talent. Always calm, cool, and collected, he provides viewers the relevant facts, his only aid being his trusty reporter’s notebook.

So Gabriel is not WPTA’s ace reporter. Nor is she its second-best. That distinction belongs to Eric Olson for his 21 Country segments. Like the late Charles Kuralt, Olson has a knack for finding interesting people and places and telling their stories in a respectful, understated manner. It’s not an easy thing to do, but he makes it look that way.

Which brings us to Gabriel. Yes, she’s folksy. But she’s also forever stumbling over her words and projecting something other than intelligence. The way she comes off on camera undercuts her credibility as a reporter. In broadcast (as opposed to print) journalism, the delivery of the content is nearly equally as important as the content itself – that’s why physical appearance, demeanor and mannerisms are fair game for criticism. After all, Gabriel is the one who made the choice to be in front of the camera.

Here’s an example, from her most recent report, on the conclusion of the manhunt for George Bellio.
GABRIEL: After eluding police for four days, George Bellio was captured here near the corner of Spring Street and Lindenwood Avenue late Saturday night.

It is just six miles from a crime scene where witnesses say he beat a man with a metal pipe.

Because of the crime, he was considered armed and dangerous.

State and city police are assisting the county in an aggressive manhunt for him with dogs on the ground and helicopters in the air, but his capture was quiet...
Maybe referring to the manhunt in the present tense (in a story about the end of that manhunt) was just a slip-up, but Gabriel failed to correct it, and she's the one attaching her name to the story, so she's responsible for its content. Either she recorded the voice over and didn't notice the flub, or she did but decided it didn't merit correcting. Neither possibility is particularly flattering. (Nicole Hahn corrected it in the text of the story posted on WPTA's website, but Gabriel's gaffe remains in the online video.)

Gabriel has been at WPTA for three years and these kinds of mistakes are still quite common in her reporting. We note this not to embarrass Kelly, but to point out that MediaWatch is wrong in calling her an ace reporter -- and that by doing so, they're undermining their own credibility.

UPDATE: Victor Locke leaves this comment on the MediaWatch blog:
With Kelley Gabriel, what you see is what you get. She is charming, friendly and genuine. Above all, she's a hard worker, eager to learn, a stickler for detail and accuracy. I enjoyed the short time I was able to work with her. She's an asset not only to 21Alive but to the journalism community in general.
It doesn't sound like she's a stickler for detail and accuracy to us...that was sort of the point of what we just posted. We don't necessarily disagree that she's "an asset" to the journalism community in general, but we'd like Victor to provide something to back up the assertion. Everyone seems to agree that Gabriel is nice -- but does being nice automatically qualify someone as an asset to the journalism community? We would hope it takes more than that.

(By the way, Victor now runs a voice over business, and WPTA is one of his clients. Does that mean he's got a conflict of interest when it comes to talking about Gabriel? Ask Todd Burlage!)

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