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Standoff created reporting dilemma

By The Associated Press
Published April 14, 2007


TAMPA -- The story of a gunman barricaded with hostages inside a shooting range was a natural, but media outlets faced a dilemma when word broke - give the public details as the 10-hour standoff unfolded, or stay quiet.

During the standoff with 43-year-old Jeffrey Lane Dudney, Hillsborough sheriff's officials asked media outlets to refrain from reporting any information about the situation for fear of further upsetting him and endangering the hostages' lives.

Some media outlets accommodated the request; others reported it on Web sites. The drama ended when Dudney killed himself about 3 a.m. Friday.

WFLA-AM, the major news-talk radio station in the area, reported the rush-hour traffic snarl that resulted from the situation, but told listeners only that it was due to "police activity."

Mike Gautreau, news director at cable TV station Bay News 9, said the Sheriff's Office made a convincing argument. The station reported only the basics: The road was closed because of a hostage situation and people should avoid the area.

The St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune regularly updated their Web sites with what little information was being released by the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jose Docobo said the Sheriff's Office feared his officers would lose tactical advantage if Dudney saw his deputies move into position outside on television.

But according to two hostages, there was no television in the room. There was a computer, but Dudney did not use it, they said.

Times staff writers Justin George and Abbie VanSickle and Associated Press writer Lisa Orkin Emmanuel in Miami contributed to this report.

[Last modified April 13, 2007, 23:52:41]

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