Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reporters in conflicts -- the tragedy of Amy Jacobson

I feel for Amy Jacobson, the WMAQ TV reporter who was (fill in the blank here, but she no longer works there) Tuesday when a competing news station (WBBM TV) videotaped her in a bikini at the Plainfield home of Craig Stebic, the estranged husband of Lisa Stebic, who has been missing since April 30.

Jacobson was covering the Lisa Stebic story for WMAQ TV. But, she brought her own two children (aged 2 and 3) to the Stebic home after, Jacobson explained, she was invited to the home by Stebic's sister to discuss the story followup. Jacobson's kids were playing with Stebic's kids and Jacobson was enjoying the extremely hot weather.

I know what she's going through. Nearly 18 years ago, I found myself in a similar situation when I started dating former City Treasurer Miriam Santos. The news media never gets the story right I discovered when I became the subject of news media coverage eight months later.

When I started dating Santos, I left the City Hall beat and transferred to the Cook County beat. In fact, I worked at Cook County for eight months before the controversy surfaced. The Sun-Times editors were fully aware of the relationship, as were the reporters who broke the story; my friend at the Chicago Tribune, John Kass, had dinner with us several times and knew we were dating.

Daley went after Santos by trying to compare here to Jane Byrne, and they used the fact that I was a reporter to do it; Jane Byrne's husband was the colorful and controversial former reporter, Jay McMullen. I don't really care about the whole thing today at all, except that a lot of innocent people (including my ex-wife) were unfairly hurt as a result.

Still, had it not been for that turn of events, I might not have met my current wife. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and have the perfect marriage -- not withstanding that she is Jewish and I am Palestinian. The real problem is she is a Republican and I am a Democrat.

I can only guess that Jacobson is as much the victim of a bad choice on her part as she is the victim of a media that too often intentionally chooses the inaccurate story or implications because it is the "better" story.

Here's what was reported:

Jacobson told the newspaper she was on her way to go swimming with her kids on her day off when Stebic's sister, Jill, invited her to the house to discuss the

"My kids were in the car with me," Jacobson said. "It was a way for me to do my work and have fun with my kids."

She said the video didn't show others who were at the home, including Craig's sister and other children.

"If a tape didn't exist, I know I would still have my job," she said. "The video they used was not indicative of the situation."Jacobson admitted she did not handle the situation properly.

"I know I made a lapse in judgment," she said. "I know it and I apologize for it. But I'm a competitive person and I did it to advance the story."

Imagine the implications in the Jacobson-Stebic story. I won't even get into them as everyone is already speculating on Craig Stebic himself and his estranged wife -- they were separated and getting divorced when she disappeared. You know what is being implied there. Too often, the husband turns out to be the bad guy and everyone is waiting for a shoe to drop on that case, even if no shoe will ever drop.

Regardless, I think Jacobson's 11 years of phenomenal reporting should have played into the decision by WMAQ TV to drop her. Isn't that always the case, though, years of achievement means nothing in the face of one moment of indiscretion or a personal mistake.

We're all human. We all make mistakes. I've made my share. And so will everyone reading this.

Rather than relishing in the story of Jacobson's demise, we should step back and consider the possibility that it was all an innocent mistake that would not be as appealing to the media as is the inuendo and suggestion of something worse.

-- Ray Hanania


Here is the WMAQ TV Bio of Jacobson, which was removed from the NBC site Tuesday night:

Amy Jacobson joined NBC5 News as a general assignment reporter in August 1996.

In her 10 years in Chicago, Jacobson has covered major assignments. She was in the locker room when the Chicago White Sox won the Pennant and the World Series. She also covered the Salt Lake Olympics.

As one of the most distinguished and well-respected reporters in the market, Jacobson has covered several local stories that have been picked up by the NBC network. She has been a featured reporter on the Today Show four times.

Prior to joining NBC5, Jacobson was a general assignment reporter at the Fox Affiliate WJBK-TV in Detroit, Mich. She worked at the ABC Affiliate KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas, where duties included general assignment reporter, assignment editor and substitute producer/anchor.

Jacobson also spent time at KOLD-TV in Tucson, Ariz., where she was a morning anchor/producer, general assignment reporter and photographer/editor.

Jacobson started her career in journalism in 1992 at KSAX-TV in Alexandria, Minn., as a morning anchor/producer and general assignment reporter. Jacobson held an internship during college at KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A native of Mt. Prospect, Jacobson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from The University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcasting and film. Jacobson married Jaime Anglada in 2002. They have two boys, ages 2 and 1.

Drop Amy a line:


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