Government Critic Removed From Broadcast Television

KMOV anchorman Larry Conners posted on Facebook that he might have been targeted by the IRS for asking a tough question of President Obama during an interview before the election.

For posting on Facebook this sort of musing, his television station pulled him from the air and stifled him with a gag order:

Longtime KMOV (Channel 4) anchorman Larry Conners is “off the air” until further notice.

The station is examining Conners’ recent allegations that he was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service after interviewing President Barack Obama.

“He’s not suspended. We just all thought it made sense (for him) to take a few days off,” news director Sean McLaughlin said Thursday.

“We take this very seriously, and we don’t expect this to drag on. We’re still looking into the situation and weighing our options,” he said.

That’s the story from yesterday. On Monday, the inquisition moves forward:

A meeting between KMOV (Channel 4) executives and anchorman Larry Conners — who is off the air until further notice — has been set for Monday.

The station is examining Conners’ recent post to Facebook alleging he was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service after interviewing President Barack Obama.

Today, Conners’ attorney, Merle Silverstein, issued a statement saying Conners “is barred by corporate from making statements, posting on Facebook, or participating in interviews on the IRS issue.”

Silverstein’s statement concludes, “That is the only reason for his silence.”

The story is all full of the Sanctity of Unbiased Journalism:

Michael Valentine, a vice president with Belo Corp., KMOV’s parent company, told the news website BuzzFeed that Conners “owes a duty to our viewers to report in an unbiased manner.”

“His Facebook post and his Twitter posts, as a result, were inappropriate,” he said. “And we don’t condone personal posts that jeopardize the journalistic nature of our business. It’s really that simple.”

How cynical am I? Let’s peel back the layers of cynicism:

  • I wonder if Belo / KMOV minds if its on-air reporters speculate off-hand in an approved fashion, which might be pro-government. Because we’ve all seen how the papers and news stations have pretty much become lick-spittles for government at all levels, whether through multi-part and seemingly multi-annual booster sessions for additional government children’s programs (Springfield News-Leader, do you recognize anything about yourself here?) to promoting government largesse on sports facilities to approval of government incentives for redevelopers of downtowns or new developments of strip malls to strip sales from existing, full tax-freight paying businesses (unless, of course, the new development will have a Walmart, which is viewed with skepticism to say the least). Would he be on the air today if he’d mused that he thinks this is all blown out of proportion? Come on, cyn with me.
  • Is KMOV and its parent Belo afraid of what this now-viral musing of its anchor might mean to future access to the powerful or–dare we say it–corporate relations with the IRS?
  • Larry Conners has been on the air in St. Louis for a long time. Undoubtedly his salary is pretty good (from his perspective). Is it bad from KMOV’s persepective? Is Belo / KMOV looking to dump an anchor fondly enjoyed in the St. Louis area because he’s old and expensive, and they have seized upon this as a reason to do it, to make it Conners’ fault, and to seek the approval of the hipster/Washington Avenue loft demographic?

I guess we’ll know more on Monday, but regardless, this is a poor, poor reflection on KMOV and Belo.

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