Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Channel 30 Sensationalizes Story on Missing Man

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Channel 30 Sensationalizes Story on Missing Man

Article excerpt

CHANNEL 30 news' penchant for the sensational got out of hand at 10 p.m. last Wednesday. The station's lead story was about Michael Hetlage, the man from St. Peters previously reported missing. In introducing reporter Darren Kramer, anchor Don Marsh said police believed they had found Hetlage's body in East St. Louis. Kramer repeated that assertion.

Kramer then noted that earlier, before the body's discovery, he prepared a taped story, including an interview with Hetlage's wife. It should not have been aired.

He said on tape (note it was now out of date) "Tonight, Diane Hetlage is home waiting." Adding that she had muscular dystrophy, Kramer's interview had her saying she was worried and had the feeling something might be wrong.

She went on to say (keep in mind, he's now known to be a murder victim) "I just want to know where Mike's at. I hope he's hurt or they tied him up. I don't care. I would like to know."

Kramer then returned on the air live to say "Just a short time ago, Mrs. Hetlage found out that was not the case and that her husband is dead."

This was an affront to Mrs. Hetlage. That interview was now inappropriate and to play it was totally insensitive.

Kramer added the body, when discovered, was nude. No explanation was offered why that was important or necessary information for the viewer.

The next day, the Post-Dispatch also reported the body was found nude, but in the context that he had no identification on him, thus making it more difficult to verify his identity.

Ironically, Channel 4 also ran an interview with Diane Hetlage. But in Channel 4's case, they did not have the same late information as Channel 30.

Reporter Mark Cox reported that a body had been found but said there was no confirmation it was Hetlage's. Channel 30's Kramer stated as fact that the body was Hetlage's.

Channel 4's choice of a sound clip from Diane Hetlage was also less dramatic and simply had her stating her husband should have been at work - but wasn't.

Channel 5 spent only 25 seconds on the story (Channels 30 and 4 each allocated more than 2 minutes to it) with anchor Rick Edlund reading that a body had been found and that it might be Hetlage's. …

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