WGN News Director Explains How Staged Plane Crash Was Mistaken for Actual News

By Merrill Knox 

WGN news director Greg Caputo has some explaining to do after the CW affiliate’s Friday morning newscast, when anchors Robin Baumgarten and Larry Potash spent several minutes reporting on a staged plane crash as if it were breaking news. Caputo talks about the incident with the Chicago Tribune, which like WGN is owned by Tribune Co.:

Channel 9 news director Greg Caputo said the station’s helicopter “was close by and was the first news helicopter to arrive on the scene. Based on police radio traffic, several officers in the area were similarly alarmed that there was a plane crash.  We contacted Chicago police, Chicago fire, and the FAA seeking information.  All of those public agencies said they had no knowledge of a plane crash.  But none of them said that it was a scene from a movie.

“Our previous experience with movies and TV shows filming in Chicago is that they inform the community that something is happening,” he added. “Since we had no such advisory, our news team began to describe the scene they could see from our helicopter shot.  Other major stations in Chicago were on network news at that time.” 

Police and fire officials report that other television stations also called them about what looked like a major story unfolding at King and 29th Street, though Channel 9 apparently was the only one to go with the story shortly after 8 a.m.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Film Office told the Tribune that his office puts out media alerts only for “large-scale productions,” but said steps will be taken to improve communication in the future.