The tawdry story of the local TV anchor/reporter who was reporting on Hizzoner Antonio Villaraigosa even while having a romantic relationship with him -- reporting the news of the breakup of his marriage, no less -- has come to something of a close with the hammer coming down from the top brass at NBC Universal-owned Telemundo. (For the details read the Variety.com report.)
The upshot is a bunch of suspensions, reprimands and job reassignments for following a three-week probe of the sticky situation involving Mirthala Salinas (pictured), an anchor/correspondent for Telemundo O&O KVEA-TV, and Villaraigosa, whose smiling mug until recently was on local TV enough to earn him an AFTRA card. Here's what I don't understand: How can these folks come back to their jobs with any kind of editorial credibility whatsoever?
This is more than a "whoops, we screwed up and forgot to run a disclaimer" flagging corporate ties to a story or something. These were cardinal journalistic sins. Two months in the woodshed without pay is more than a slap on the wrist, no question, for Salinas and KVEA news director Al Corral, who have been suspended. KVEA general manager Manuel Abud will be reassigned to another job, probably within Telemundo, and Ibra Morales, who heads the 16 Telemundo O&Os. The fact that all these execs are facing the consequences sure seems like tacit confirmation that they were all aware of Salinas' relationship. (A KVEA spokesman demurred on specifics when pressed on this matter).
Corral will be reassigned to a new job when he returns to work. Salinas will be given an assignments that take her nowhere near City Hall, natch. And everyone in the KVEA newsroom, where Salinas' romantic entanglement was said to be an open secret, is for some heavyduty ethics-education courses from the Poynter Institute, which assisted in the internal probe, per Telemundo.
The feeling internally at Telemundo seems to be that station management at one point did the right thing -- late last year when they realized it'd be a good idea to take Salinas off of the local-politics beat -- but screwed up royally in April when they decided to make Salinas a temporary news anchor. Naturally, she reported on Villaraigosa-related news during that time, but it all became particularly touchy on June 8 and June 11 when Salinas managed with a straight face to report on the breakup of Villaraigosa's marriage and his wife's filing of a divorce petition. She's got moxie, I'll say that, but it's not exactly the same stuff that kept Edward R. Murrow in London reporting on the Blitz.
Salinas, according to folks at KVEA, is accepting the disciplinary measures and intends to return after her suspension, though I wouldn't bet on it. As for Abud and Corral, I'm not sure how the probers drew the line between suspension and termination. In some ways, it seems harder on them to have to continue with Telemundo/NBC U, where the taint of a couple of Really Bad Judgment Days will likely remain ever-present in the minds of their colleagues, even those in different departments.