TV reporter painted into corner
By ERIC DEGGANS
Published May 24, 2006
After a local white separatist posted video of an interview with him on the Internet, WFTS-Ch. 28 reporter Don Germaise insisted he did not agree to answer questions in exchange for the separatist’s cooperation with his own story for Tampa’s ABC affiliate.
But pro-white activist David Daugherty says Germaise isn’t telling the truth.
Daugherty has posted the image of a release form signed by the reporter, as well as an e-mail exchange and video footage, in which Germaise appears to agree to submit to an interview in exchange for Daugherty’s cooperation with his story.
“Why did you agree to talk to me…because I agreed to talk to you?” Germaise asks Daugherty in video footage filmed April 15, the same day as his interview. Later, the reporter noted, “You and I agree on so many things and yet we disagree on so many things, and that’s the beauty of our country.”
According to Daugherty, Germaise also sent an e-mail April 12 saying, “I would gladly agree to 'swap’ interviews. I have read some of your stuff online, and think you’re a pretty good writer. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of it, you are clearly dead on the mark with some of your points!...When can we get together?”
And the signed release form posted by Daugherty says “the reporter hereby grants permission…to photograph the reporter and record the reporter’s voice and appearances and use the reporter’s picture, photograph and sound,’’ while prohibiting Daugherty from using the material for advertisements.
This material contradicts statements Germaise made last week when news of the video interview first surfaced, including his insistence that there was no “quid pro quo” exchange of interviews and that “I can state unequivocally that there is nothing about this group that I like.”
Journalism ethicists often discourage trading anything of value for interviews for fear of corrupting the news process.
Germaise declined to comment Wednesday. Daugherty said he was surprised Germaise denied their arrangement in an earlier St. Petersburg Times story, especially given the evidence he had of their agreement.
“The only reason I wanted a release was... I didn’t want to post the interview and have ABC come knocking on my door to say we have rights to this guy’s televised appearance,” said Daugherty.
“After I interviewed him, he said to me and somebody else (off camera) that he did talk to his supervisor about doing this interview,” added Daugherty, contradicting another statement by Germaise that he agreed to the interview without his superiors’ knowledge. “What he said was that he told the supervisors that the video was going to be up on (our) Web site and they said 'Just don’t embarrass us.’ ”
WFTS general manager Bill Carey said Tuesday Germaise did not adequately inform his superiors of the interview or the existence of the e-mails and signed release form. Carey also said he still believed Germaise didn’t initially view the interview as a tit-for-tat exchange, despite his statements in the e-mails and on videotape.
Known for his energetic reports on subjects ranging from hurricanes to alligator attacks, Germaise has often seemed to live up to the station’s slogan, ABC Action News. Carey now says that, in this instance, perhaps Germaise tried too hard.
“He still was of the belief he was chumming up to a source…He understands now that it was a quid pro quo arrangement,” said general manager, who noted any discipline Germaise might receive would likely be treated as an internal personnel matter.
“He’s been burned and embarrassed and he’s brought that all down on our station. I don’t think it’s representative of his 12 years’ work for us.”
But Daugherty wrote on his Web site that Germaise was “saying things he knows are not true” in an attempt to minimize the situation.
“Maybe Germaise is under a lot of pressure for agreeing to the interview and is trying to do some damage control,” Daugherty wrote on his site. “I do know he is providing an excellent example of what not to do. Never make public statements which are not true, especially when the other party involved has video footage of you saying otherwise.”