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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tag: investigative reporting

Testing school security, KSDK-TV reporter triggers lockdown

It may be a case of the end justifying the means.  If so, which end matters more:  Exposure of a significant security flaw at a local high school, or the stress and expense brought on by a 40 minute campus lockdown when the station did not immediately confirm its involvement?

Yesterday (Thursday, January 16, 2014), a NewsChannel 5 reporter for KSDK-TV tried unsuccessfully to gain entrance to four other area schools before walking into Kirkwood High School in suburban St. Louis.  The unauthorized visitor gave his name and mobile number to a school secretary before leaving.

Writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispactch, Jessica Bock and Kevin McDermott report that school administrators recognize the incident identified security deficiencies, yet also point out the impact KSDK’s delay in confirming its role in the lockdown had on students, staff and parents.

“We learned some things from this, but we are still dismayed that a call was not given after to let us know this was a test,” Cayce said. “We could have prevented the alarm to our parents, students and staff.”

The KSDK reporter initially gave his name and cellphone number and when the Kirkwood High secretary left to get the school resource officer, the man left the office, Cayce said. Administrators became alarmed when he asked the location of a restroom, left the office, but went a different direction.

When they called his cellphone, he did not answer, but his voicemail said he was a KSDK reporter. Cayce said she tried three times to confirm with the news station that the man was actually with KSDK with no success.

According to the Post-Dispatch article, KSDK-TV moved to head off criticism in advance of airing the investigative report during its 10pm edition, broadcasting a statement during early evening newscasts.

“This lockdown certainly was not the intent of our visit,” KSDK said in the statement, pointing out that the lockdown didn’t happen for an hour until after the reporter left. The station says the reporter “identified himself by name” to school officials. However, KSDK didn’t claim that he identified himself as a reporter.

“NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children within,” KSDK said.

The KSDK-TV report can be viewed here.

The entire St. Louis Post-Dispatch article can be read here.

Kristen Hare (@KristenHare) of Poynter also reports on the incident, under the headline “St. Louis TV station causes school lockdown, pisses off everyone.”  That article can be read here