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Reporter, TV station sued for breaking "promise to talk"

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Reporter, TV station sued for breaking “promise to talk”

  • The lawsuit alleges that television reporter Wayne Dolcfino of KTRK TV in Houston failed to allow the subjects of his story to defend themselves before airing the piece.

Sep. 12, 2003 — Houston television reporter Wayne Dolcefino, his broadcast station and its owners are being sued for failing to honor a promise to interview the subjects of a critical story prior to airing the piece.

Founders of the children’s charity Kid-Care, Carol and Hurt Porter, their son, Hurt Porter III, and former Kid-Care Executive Director Brad Levy filed the lawsuit in district court in Houston on Sept. 5. In addition to Dolcefino, KTRK TV Channel 13, ABC Broadcasting, and its owner, Walt Disney Co., were also named in the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that Carol Porter, upon hearing that Dolcefino was working on a story that criticized the spending practices of Kid-Care’s former management, sent a letter to top Disney executives in an effort to arrange a meeting with KTRK. A Disney attorney, David Cohen, responded with a letter stating that Dolcefino would contact the Porters before airing his report.

Dolcefino’s story aired on Sept. 5, the day before Carol Porter was scheduled to meet Dolcefino for an interview, according to the allegations.

The lawsuit also alleges that Dolcefino’s story contained inaccuracies that could have been corrected ahead of time if he had met with Kid-Care’s former management, and that the report damaged the reputations of the Porters, Levy and the charity. The Porters stepped down as Kid-Care’s leaders in May 2002, in an agreement with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has charged them with using the charity’s funds for personal expenses. Levy was fired in June 2003.

Attorney Valorie Davenport, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Porters and Levy, told the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday that while the lawsuit alleges KTRK, ABC and Disney failed to properly train and supervise Dolcefino, there is no charge of libel. However, she added, a judge may choose to classify the suit as a libel claim.

Dolcefino’s attorney, Charles Babcock, says that the plaintiffs’ failure to allege libel signifies that “they can’t attack the integrity of the broadcast, so they are trying to fashion some other means” to pursue Dolcefino and his employers.

(Porter v. KTRK-TV; Levy v. KTRK-TV, Charles Babcock, Dallas) KM

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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