Arkansas Station Denies Judge Assigned Story as Part of Deal

By Kevin Eck 

An Arkansas paper is accusing Fort Smith’s KFSM of all but handing over control of its editorial decisions to an Arkansas judge in exchange for leniency after the CBS affiliate’s managing editor violated one of the judge’s orders.

The story goes something like this: KFSM managing editor Larry Henry broke a judge’s ban on electronic posts during a trial of a man accused of murdering a 6-year-old girl. Henry posted a message about the verdict right after the jury’s decision.

In an editorial, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette questioned Judge Brad Karren‘s choice of punishment for Henry, framing it as some sort of plea deal struck between judge and station.

Rather than jailing or fining Henry, Karren and the TV station worked out a deal: Henry would air a story on KFSM within 30 days about a topic of the judge’s liking, child safety. A status hearing is scheduled July 16 to ensure Henry followed through on the Karren’s story assignment to the judge’s satisfaction.

But KFSM news director Bill Cummings told TVSpy it didn’t happen that way. “There was never any discussion with the court on content of that story nor was there any quid pro quo to avoid a fine or other action.”

“KSFM did not, nor would we ever, relinquish control over our content or editorial process,” said Cummings. “In this case we did acknowledge that Mr. Henry unintentionally violated Judge Karren’s rules regarding tweeting in his courtroom. In additional to apologizing to the court, we deemed it appropriate to take a positive step and offer to do a story on children’s advocacy — a topic we have covered many times on 5NEWS.”