Journalists behaving badly

July 21, 2008

Oh dear. Even behind those pearly-white, smiling exteriors lurk some dark and sinister skeletons bounding out of the closet. Despite the seamless, natural on-air chemistry we so often see in our trusted TV anchormen and women, these two Philadelphia reporters were apparently at each others’ throats in this email scandal that is newsworthy in and of itself.

From CNN:

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) — A longtime television newscaster was charged Monday with illegally accessing the e-mail of his glamorous former co-anchor, who suspected details of her social life were being leaked to gossip columnists.

Federal prosecutors say fired KYW-TV anchor Larry Mendte accessed Alycia Lane’s e-mail accounts hundreds of times and leaked her personal information to a Philadelphia Daily News reporter.

Lane’s personal life had routinely become tabloid fodder and eventually led to her own dismissal from the station.

“The mere accessing and reading of privileged information is criminal,” acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid said. “This case, however, went well beyond just reading someone’s e-mail.”

Mendte was charged with a felony count of intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization. A conviction could bring a six-month prison term under federal sentencing guidelines.

Mendte gained access to Lane’s accounts for more than two years, prosecutors said. In a five-month span starting in January, Mendte accessed her accounts approximately 537 times, authorities said.

He was fired from Philadelphia’s CBS affiliate last month after FBI agents searched his home and seized his computer.

Mendte’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, said the charge against Mendte “should not come as a surprise to anyone.”

“As we continually have said from day one, Larry has been cooperating fully with the investigators. He continues to cooperate and will accept full responsibility for his actions,” Schwartz said Monday.

Lane was fired from KYW in January after a series of embarrassing off-camera incidents, including her arrest following a late-night scuffle with plainclothes police in New York City.

Lane later sued the station, alleging it maliciously damaged her reputation by deliberately promoting her personal life to generate publicity. The station has denied Lane’s allegations.

Mendte has been off the air since May 29, the day his home was searched and computer seized. He was fired June 23, days after Lane filed her lawsuit in which she also alleged that keeping Mendte on the payroll during a federal probe amounted to sex discrimination.

Mendte and Lane anchored the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts from September 2003 until Lane was fired. Her lawyer has said Mendte was jealous because she was making $700,000 a year at the time she was fired, somewhat more than Mendte.

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