Journalism Prof Questions Editorial Discussion Ahead of Miller Rally

Television reporters caught on tape appearing to discuss the possibility of "child molesters" making up the ranks of Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller's supporters were just bandying about "what-if scenarios," the station's manager said Sunday. 

But that kind of scenario might not be appropriate even for a brainstorming session, according to a prominent communication professor at American University in Washington, D.C. 

"If journalists are making bad jokes about what they hope to find at a rally, that sounds inappropriate," Jane Hall said. 

The conversation in question was captured in a voicemail recording on the phone of a Miller campaign aide, after a staff member at Alaska CBS affiliate KTVA accidentally left his phone on after calling the campaign. The audio recording of what was described as an editorial planning meeting is choppy and difficult to hear. But one individual can be heard saying "child molesters" in the middle of a discussion about who would show up at a Miller rally last week. 

Hall noted that the tape quality was unclear and the whole situation was "mushy," given that the tape does not show what was being discussed during the rest of the editorial meeting. 

She was hesitant to draw conclusions about the KTVA recording, but said that in general, 

"You're supposed to go to the rally and see what you find at the rally." 

Station General Manager Jerry Bever rejected as "absurd" the suggestion by the Miller campaign that reporters were looking to fabricate a story. But he described the incident as "a lesson to learn from" regarding the level of professionalism during work conversations.