Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hack Journalism

"CBS 3 Philadelphia: We Are the News!"

-- New Slogan Idea for KYW's Consideration

Dave Barry used to call it "The DeSillers Effect."

Back in 1987, a young Miami boy named Ronnie DeSillers died while awaiting a liver transplant that would likely have saved his life. The case garnered national attention, particularly when Ronnie's middle-class mother, Maria DeSillers, set up a fund to help pay for her son's medical bills during his time in the hospital. Her pleas for financial help reached all corners of the country -- even then-President Ronald Reagan donated -- and eventually more than a half-million dollars accumulated in the account. Upon Ronnie's untimely death, Maria DeSillers created a foundation in his name to help other children facing the same desperate medical battle her son had been forced to endure; the donations were ostensibly to be the backbone of the foundation.

For months, as Ronnie DeSillers fought for his life, local and national news organizations followed every breaking detail. For many people, the boy had become like part of the family.

When Ronnie died and his mother vowed to fight on in his name, most figured that was the end of the story.

The whole thing remained largely forgotten, until about a year later -- when Maria DeSillers was pulled over in Miami driving a brand new BMW.

Turns out, she'd spent almost half of the donations sent to her family -- about 250 grand, for those keeping score -- on the car, a metric ton of new jewelry and, of course, a luxury condo.

So Dave Barry created a term for the inevitability that every big story, no matter how complex or bizarre, will have one final, unbelievable twist -- and that it'll happen long after everyone has put the initial item out of their minds.

"The DeSillers Effect."

Here's the thing though: It was only suppose to apply to stories coming out of Miami, given that the city is, without question, the most batshit lunatic place on earth.

As it turns out though, the DeSillers Effect is apparently viral, because a former Miami news reporter and anchor has dragged it with her to her new home in Philadelphia. Of course I'm talking about Alycia Lane, everyone's favorite bikini-clad, dirty picture-sending, foul-mouthed, cop-slugging, news sex-kitten. She's back in the headlines again, in a manner of speaking. Her co-anchor at KYW in Philly, Larry Mendte, is now under federal investigation for allegedly hacking into Lane's private e-mail account and leaking what he found to gossip columnists. The feds raided Mendte's home a few days ago, confiscating his personal computer, and he remains off-air until the dust settles one way or the other.

You'll remember that back in January Alycia Lane was fired from her plum, $700,000-a-year anchor job at KYW after a series of very public, very embarrassing incidents -- these included sending pictures of herself in a bikini to former ESPNer Rich Eisen (they were intercepted by his wife), crying on national television while discussing her divorce with Dr. Phil, and getting arrested for reportedly calling a female NYPD cop a "fucking dyke" just before hitting her. Little Miss Sunshine has been uncharacteristically quiet since being shown the door, but has supposedly always felt like someone on the inside handed her up. Federal officials claim that Lane's suspicions are what led them to take the case -- which sounds infinitely more respectable than admitting that Lane offered to send them half-naked pictures of herself in return for investigating the matter.

If Mendte really does turn out to be the mole -- which would sort of befit his ferret-like appearance -- it could benefit Lane's claim of wrongful termination against KYW and its media masters at CBS. It shouldn't -- not even a little bit -- but it could. She's slyly insinuating that her co-anchor was the Phantom Menace, secretly selling her out to The New York Post's "Page Six" as far back as 2003, when the paper somehow got ahold of the scathing e-mail Eisen's wife sent Lane in response to the ill-advised bikini pics meant for her husband's eyes only. Lane claims Mendte was jealous of the stratospheric career track she was on and the hefty paycheck it afforded her -- as well as, one would imagine, her powerful right hook -- which led him to sabotage her. If proven true though, Mendte's got bigger problems than just incurring the wrath of CBS, which might have to pay up as a direct result of his skulduggery: rifling through someone's e-mail without permission is a felony and could land him in prison.

It'd be easy to say that Alycia Lane -- the subject of so much public ridicule for so long -- could wind up having the last laugh in this whole long, drawn-out and thoroughly embarrassing episode.

But I think that's actually reserved for Dave Barry.

He's probably laughing his ass off about this.


(Low Is Lane/1.8.08)


dick_gozinia said...

I imagine them having Ron Burgundy-style fights backstage. Except in this case, the female anchor actually is from Whore Island.

kanye said...

This could really get fun if said gossip columnists refuse to cooperate by citing "Reporter's Privilege".

Anonymous said...

That "somewhere" Dave Barry is laughing his ass of from is presumably his home in Miami.

Since, you know, he's not dead.

Chez said...

I really didn't think I gave that impression, but someone over at HuffPost said the same thing so, ya know, I've changed it.

That's one of those classic not-having-an-editor problems (although Jayne operates as my second set of eyes a lot of the time, and she didn't notice a problem).

VOTAR said...

FYI I wasn't left with the impression you were suggesting Dave is dead.

He's just somewhere.

Sheesh. Screw ups like that make me so wary.

Chez said...

Yeah, well...

Jayne said...

I stick with my decision that you in no way implied that Mr. Barry was dead.

Besides, if he were, then whose columns have I been reading???