Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge® gets ahead of traditional media in coverage of St. Pete police shooting

January 24th, 2011 by Staff

www.tampabay.com – For a few hours this morning, one broadcaster was delivering details on the police shooting in St. Petersburg that no other outlet was providing, including news that two officers had been killed, along with the identity of the man suspected of killing them.

But that broadcaster wasn’t a journalist. It was Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge® Clem, who turned his morning show into a continuous report on the unfolding saga, using information delivered anonymously by law enforcement sources, police scanner broadcasts and fans on the scene to deliver details professional reporters hesitated to divulge.

This seems to another new wrinkle in a world where almost anyone can be a media outlet. Professional journalists may have standards on what they will report or not, but when an emergency breaks out, are they at a disadvantage if non-journalists get involved?

“We’ve had plenty of police officers tell us we’re not affecting the tactical situation,” said Brent Hatley, producer for Clem’s show. “The police department PR people will not control the information we release.”

Even among traditional news outlets, controversy emerged over when some details should be revealed. The names of the officers killed were initially revealed by local cable newschannel Bay News 9, using information provided by the Police Benevolent Association (The St. Petersburg Times reported the names shortly after, crediting the PBA)

But police had not officially released the names and asked both Bay News 9 and a Times reporter not to publish them. The cable channel, which often touts adherence to its crime coverage guidelines in its reports, did not broadcast the names again; anchor Al Ruechel also apologized to viewers saying, “(We) should know better than that.”

Terry Dolan, general manager at Bay News 9, said a staffer mistakenly assumed the PBA was authorizing release of the information. “The biggest thing is to make sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to family or fellow officers,” he added. St. Petersburg Times editor Neil Brown said the newspaper had only received an informal request not to report the names, which had already been published and widely broadcast.

“At no time were we told that there was some compelling reason (for example, the next of kin had not been notified),” said Brown. “If a compelling case had been made to us that publishing the names would be harmful or compromising, we would have considered it very seriously, and we have done so at times in the past.”

By 9 .a.m, Clem had reported two police officers were dead, revealing no names. Police would not confirm that officers died until 11 a.m.

Clem also first revealed the identity of the suspect, Hydra Lacy Jr., discussing his extensive criminal record and status as brother to professional boxer Jeff Lacy.

Around 10:30 a.m, WTVT investigative reporter Doug Smith explained why the station was withholding the suspect’s name — “We’re just trying to be good citizens,” he said — only to unveil Lacy’s name 10 minutes later. News director John Hoffman later said the station had pushed police for “tacit” approval to be the first traditional news outlet reporting his identity.

Disguising the voices of callers he said were law enforcement personnel, Clem provided details seemingly straight from the scene. And a fan used a cellphone to provide audio from the emergency, broadcasting the sound of a volley of gunshots.

TV stations also kept their helicopters from showing too much of the scene during the emergency. Still, Peter Roghaar, news director at CBS station WTSP-Ch. 10 said he had few problems with Clem’s early disclosures, provided they were accurate. “Bubba has tremendous law enforcement contacts,” he said. “It seemed like he handled it.”

Hatley would allow that they made one mistake, reporting a police dog had been killed at the scene when it had not. But Al Tompkins, a former local TV news director and instructor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (which owns the St. Petersburg Times), noted that people who aren’t journalists yet practice journalism may have lessons to offer professional reporters.

“Bubba does what the Internet would call crowdsourcing,” he said. “His listeners are both informed and very loyal. A lot of newsrooms would do well to have such sources.”

8 Responses

  1. Matt

    The tone of the article is ridiculous, that because Bubba isn’t a “real journalist” he is somehow less credible. I guess to be a “real journalist” you have to filter and selectively reveal the facts. The notion that the traditional media somehow has higher standards is a joke. Bubba handled this just fine without so-called expert media telling him how and when to relay the information. So Bubba, thanks for not being a real journalist. I’ll turn on your station when something like this is unfolding so I can count on the truth.

  2. Amy Sheppard

    When I heard of this today, I was sick inside. My uncle, an elderly man, in Hospice in Sun City was on my thoughts, until at lunch I had a call a good friend had passed (she fell and went into a coma, it was her time….I thought I felt bad then…..

    I heard the news …. when I turned into my subdivision after work tonight, instead of one Patrol car….well, you know and I know….(in Palmetto), I had a sick, sinking feeling and there it was…St. Pete Police cars at the house…. Wow, how close to home….my family and friend Mary was a big part of my world, but they lived a full life… Tom, well, got the short end of the stick….. I can’t explain the anger I feel inside or is it saddness, neverthe less, he will be met with some fine folks at the Pearly Gates…. and for Jeff Yaslowitz, the same…..

    Wow…thank you guys….for making my world a better place.

  3. binky

    At least Bubba and the guys got some recognition. And, as Bubba said, it doesn’t make this situation better, but at least the boys in blue got the son of a bitch… clean shoot, real justice. Who wants to spend hard earned tax money feeding and housing that scum? It’s getting ridiculous, cops are going to need full combat armor soon, when are the pussies going to let LEO’s do what they need to do to actually protect and serve? Remember the fallen

  4. Tina

    I listened to this unfold yesterday on Bubba’s show. I thought Bubba did an excellent job of reporting the facts and trying to verify before reporting anything. He went as far as to tell the person at the scene to do whatever the cops said and to not ask the cops questions and disrupt their investigation and handling of the crime. At no time did I hear him say the officers name. The REAL (what a joke) journalist are just upset that Bubba got the jump on them and offered more information than they possible could ever offer. Thank you Bubba for all you do for ALL the fallen officers in the state not just the popular ones with stories following them.

  5. Funny Pics and Videos

    Bubba is always on top of it.

  6. Elizabeth

    I believe in discretion being used in situations such as this…Bubba did just that…while he reported the events in real-time (except for the mandatory two-minute delay) – he did a fine job reporting what is known as “NEWS” -something the “NEWS PEOPLE” who proclaim to be “professionals” failed miserably at as the events unfolded. Seems to me like a case of sour-grapes on the part of the “professionals” who are not as well-connected as Bubba obviously is with the LEO’S.. Perhaps this is simply a well-placed slap in the face to the “professional journalists” who are busy hurling insults at bubba while wiping the egg off their face for tripping all over themselves like a bunch of bumbling idiots trying to gather facts from their markedly non-existent new’s sources. I understand that “first-to-report-the-story” is the name of the game in the news world…it’s quite clear who is the clear winner in that round – BUBBA! Those idiots never even threw the first punch in this match…until now, after they lost..now they’re stomping their feet like a spoiled brat who didn’t get their way… I call sour-grapes on the professional “journalists”…which by the way, ROYALLY screwed up (Bay News 9) by releasing the names of the fallen officers before they were authorized to do so..OOPS!!! Golly, we made a boo-boo!! Pretty MAJOR F’ING BOO BOO!!! Where is THEIR public crucifixtion???? Is THAT the standard the professionals set in journalism? Revealing the names of the victims in a manner in which the next of kin may hear over the during their tardy news cast without the opportunity for the horrific news to be delivered to them in the most respectful way possible. I guess their little “we’re so sorry” is enough for that GIGANTIC F-UP!! What a miserable bunch of sore losers.
    Bubba: Rock on! “Professionals”: Perhaps you should follow Bubba’s example and make an attempt to raise funds for the fallen LEO’S families the way Bubba does…or are you afraid you’ll fall short on that endeavor as well? Did any of you crybabies ever consider the reason Bubba is so well-connected with the LEOS is due to his unwavering support and devotion to them and their families. Perhaps a lesson could be learned here by the really wonderful professional journalists in the Tampa Bay area.
    Elizabeth Bailey

  7. tony

    Obama Lied people died

  8. Anthony Trester

    Can you believe that Fox news is putting MJ on the news because he had a radio interview with one of the officer’s wives. Why would they put that on and not put on their own interview (if able to get one). Seems like something shady! This is as bad as being the “last” person to speak to Billy Mayes. Really? Way to try and keep relevant!

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