Reporter Accused of Conflict of Interest for Dating Local Sheriff

By Kevin Eck 

KBZK anchor and reporter Judy Slate is coming under fire for how her personal relationship with Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin is affecting her professional relationship with Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin.

According to Jim Romenesko, Slate has done stories on Gootkin doing a cold water challenge and giving a tour of a local high school, but she hasn’t disclosed she’s dating him in her reports.

“We figured it should be the responsibility of KBZK’s news director to talk to her about it and to coach her on the conflict of interest,” a rival journalist told Romenesko. “However, the fact that the relationship has gone on so long with seemingly no ethical guidance from the news director seems to us that they approve at KBZK.”

“Slate has changed her Facebook profile pic to one of herself and the sheriff, as she has posted photos of the two of them going to the Sturgis rally, as they’ve discussed their hot tubbing plans on social media, etc.,” a Bozeman journalist tells Romenesko readers.

Three weeks ago Slate did a story about county commissioners rejecting a dog leash law. After the piece aired, Slate noted on Facebook that “I got my dogs and my man in my story last night.”

Yes, the sheriff – her man – was in that news report, too.

“The TV station – the leading TV station here in Bozeman – has become a glorified PR desk for the sheriff,” says the journalist who alerted me to this conflict. “Slate gets to have her pick of time with the sheriff and her station gets notified of news that otherwise no one would have heard about, like remote traffic accidents in the middle of the night.

“Meanwhile, our newsroom and other TV stations go through the regular channels to try to get a word from Gootkin.”

TVSpy asked KBZK gm Jon Saunders for comment. We’ll update when we hear back.