KXLY first reported a Spokane man, who wanted to remain anonymous, was giving out cash on the street. Then, the Spokane ABC station did a check on the guy and discovered he had multiple convictions for fraud and theft and was on parole for multiple felony counts in Idaho.
Poynter reports, when KXLY reported what they found, some viewers were not pleased with the station. Some even accused the station of lying to Edward Jarzabek about keeping his identity secret when they revealed who he was once they discovered his past.
The station went back to Jarzabek to confront him about his prison record and he admitted it was all true. He had been in a lot of trouble but he said he was turning his life around and wanted to help others. He could not say exactly where all of that money came from though. KXLY didn’t go for the sensational “chase the bad guy down the street while shouting at him” interview. They sat down in an office and gave him a chance to tell his story.
KXLY was surprised to find that people were upset with their reporting. People posted angry messages on the station’s website supporting Jarzabek’s “charity.”
Viewers posted their opinions on the station’s facebook page (see example after the jump). Some saw him as a modern day Robin Hood:
While others thought the station should be more forgiving:
“We found there are three camps that came up around this story,” KXLY news director Jerry Post told Poynter. “There are those who see us as big bad media trying to destroy this man, there are people who accept that he is a criminal but think it is OK for him to give money away even if we don’t know where the money came from and there are people who see him for who he is.”