Editorial: Local Outlets Fascination with Shawn Hornbeck

By July 20, 2007 KMOV, KPLR, KSDK, KTVI No Comments

Crimes were committed five years ago when Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby were allegedly kidnapped by accused child molester Michael Devlin.  Now almost an entire year has passed since Hornbeck and Ownby were found in Devlin’s Kirkwood apartment. Naturally, the story didn’t stop there. The Greater St. Louis region was very much interested in the how the boys were doing after being rescued, and what the prosecutors had in mind for Devlin.  

The problem is, now that story has for the most part fallen off of the radar of most St. Louisans, why the story seems to be resurrected in lieu of other stories that could be covered on local televison outlets.  In particular, most troubling is KMOV, who has fallen back on Shaun Hornbeck coverage, much like the tabloid “Entertainment Tonight,” which coincidently is shown on KMOV, did with the Anna Nicole Smith saga.  

Yesterday’s lead story on KMOV’s News4 at Noon was Shawn Hornbeck, tagged “Rare Hornbeck Appearance.” The story was reported by KMOV’s 6pm anchor, Russell Kinsaul. The story was celebrating Shawn Hornbeck’s birthday, and a new initiatve that Hornbeck foundation was taking on.The most important question is why this story was chosen, when there are other stories to report on, namely the weather conditions that are worsening as the day goes along, and what AmerenUE’s strategy is to deal with potential issues that may arise with a strong storm heading toward St. Louis on the one year anniversary of the storms that damaged large areas of St. Louis last July.  Is there no other story to cover? Later on in day, when the storms were already in the St. Louis region, did KMOV run the story on storms, and spoke with a representative of AmerenUE.

Covering the Devlin aspect of the story is journalism.  When your station dispatches a ENG truck and 6 o’clock anchor, it’s hard not to wonder about ethics.

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