Friday, March 23, 2007

Former Omaha Anchor
In Hot Water In Milwaukee

Courtny Gerrish mug, courtesy of WTMJMilwaukee Deputy Police Chief Brian O'Keefe is calling the actions of Courtny Gerrish "despicable" after the former Omaha anchor/reporter called the wife of a shooting victim before police had time to inform her of her husband's death.

According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, O'Keefe said police were on their way to notify relatives when Gerrish called the family about five hours after the deadly shooting of a popular boxing coach at a gas station.

But WTMJ (NBC) News Director Bill Berra said that it was never the station's intention to break the news to the family. He also said he was surprised by the amount of time it took for police to notify relativers.

"I'm just terribly upset that we were put in the position of having to tell the family," Berra says. "And I apologize to them in every way possible. We didn't think we'd be telling the family four-and-a-half hours after the event."

Berra said he will not let Gerrish talk publicly about the incident, but said she was "shocked to find that they didn't know" when she called the home for comment around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

On first blush, it sounds like the police dragged their feet a bit. Four and a half hours? If a television news bunny can pick up the phone and contact the family, how hard is it for a major metropolitan police department to do the same thing (especially when that is part of their job)? This is my initial reaction and perhaps facts may come out for me to reach a different conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Despicable indeed! Despite just a 4 1/2 lag time, the reporter still should have verified with police that the family had been notified. Why do reporters think they have to stick their noses into private matters just to get a comment?! I wouldn't want to talk to a reporter 4 hours after a loved one is suddenly killed. Perhaps there should be a mandatory 24 waiting period before media should be allowed to contact a victim's family. Don't blame the police on this one. Despicable...

Anonymous said...

Seriously, what is the family going to say in a time like that anyway?

They're going to cry or be angry or sad or not comment at all. Of course, the TV folk want to shove a camera in the family's face and ask, "So how do you feel?"

If they want a picture of the victim, perhaps they should have called the police first and asked if they had contacted the family. Where I live, the police PIO always asks the family for a photo, which is then scanned and shared with all press.

Shame on Courtny. Shame!

Anonymous said...

Ya know, people, unless you've been in the business, don't be pointing fingers. Coming from someone who used to be in Courtny's position, the worst part of the job is knocking on people's doors asking them for comments.

Granted, I agree Courtny should have waited for the cops to release the man's name (and therefore the family has been notified)...regardless of whether the whole city knew who he was. That's just how it's done.

As for the question, "Why do reporters have to stick their noses into private matters?" 3 reasons:

1. Becuase someone wants to know about it. People are curious by nature. Now, there's always someone who says "There's too much violence on TV" or "Reporters should mind their own business." Yet these are the same people who cause traffic jams driving slowly past an accident or an arrest, rubbernecking so they can see what's going on. Yeesh.

B. Because police might need help. If it was an unsolved murder, it helps to get the word out. I used to tell families, "I'm sorry for your loss. But the cops are still looking for whoever did this, and it's been my experience that the more someone talks about what happened, the better the chances are that there will be someone who has information.

3. Because victim's families need to talk. Reporters on the crime beat become psychologists..whether we want to or not. Many people need to talk about what happened. That's how they deal.

Now, I'm not saying it's a perfect job...far from it. But that's what it is...a job. SOMEONE has to do it because SOMEONE wants to know about it.

Anonymous said...

Or how about #4? It makes good t.v.

Anonymous said...

I agree with poster #5. And I also have been in the business. It is merely for good television, nothing else. And since when did reporters have a degree in psychology? Please. Shovel it somewhere else. You're there to get the scoop, get the story first no matter who you have to trample to get it. Let's call a spade a spade shall we?

I will admit, though, that it does get the word out. However, it's not about humanity, it's about the story. It always is about good television and what might bring ratings. Ghouls!

Anonymous said...

I call B . S.

You @$%clowns that are trying to justify her actions make me sick.

. The police were driving to have a face to face with the family-the correct and right way. Five hours is not that much time in -= maybe clean up as the investigators may have been up for countless hours, drive time in the city and etc.

No story is that damn important. I like Courtney but this is wrong. The damn media thinks they can do what the hell they want when they want to.



Anonymous said...

No matter what she did or what any reporter does, this is part of the job? Should we get rid of news just because reporters talk to the families of shooting victims?! I don't think so! It's a reporter's job to do this whether they like doing it or not. And at many stations you don't have the choice of what story you are doing. You are told by management that this is what you are working on and figure out how to make it work. I agree that she should have waited until police released the name of the victim. That is just common sense. But I don't think that the story should not be on the air, especially if a well known person died. Plus, families do have the right to say no, but in a lot of cases they agree to talk. So if they are agreeing to talk, then why is the reporter doing something wrong?

Obbop said...


Well, yes, but indirectly.

It's MONEY!!! PROFIT!!!!! Let's get RICH!!!!!!!

More eyeballs looking at our output the more MONEY we can charge advertisers!!!!!!!

Yet, look how many important stories are ignored. Stories that an informed electorate needs to do their civic duty at voting time, etc.

But.... MONEY FIRST!!!!!!!!

From one who doesn't earn income from the media.... allow me to be blunt:

Too many of you in the media are whores for money.

Sure, you will say "It's just my job." Okay. Guarding Dachau and performing the Final Solution was just a job, also.

Yeah yeah yeah, an extreme comparison but, applicable in my opinion.

I hope you broadcasting pukes are proud of yourselves.

But, you will assuredly just keep on defending your actions and the actions of your industry.

That's understandable. You are just whores for money.

Anonymous said...

it's important to note that this incident makes news, which means it doesn't happen often. if it did, why would it even be worth mentioning in the paper?

unfortunately, when it does happen, it is truly in poor taste. not denying that.

but i'd hesitate to throw all journalists into the same angry boat. the reporters i know always check first to see if next of kin has been notified. i'd wager 9 out of 10 others do too.

and those nine will also tell you going to family's homes is the hands-down hardest part of the job. who wants to be there intruding when someone finds out their loved one is dead? "good tv" isn't worth it.

a broadcast journalist said...


If what you say is true, show me the money! If I'm a money whore, I better be actually getting some cash! I ain't seen a nickel that goes to the advertisers. If I'm turning tricks, I wanna see the big bucks!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I can't believe Gerrish was given the story. Wasn't she the fluff queen?

Anonymous said...

News stations almost always receive the name of a crime victim from the police department. The police department shouldn't have released the name of this shooting victim prior to notifying the family--that's standard protocol. It sounds like the police department is using Gerrish and her station as a scapegoat for their own mistake.

gerrishnut said...

Courtny is hot and gets a pass in my book

Anonymous said...

Obbop, Go back to building that fence to keep the immigrants out. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Courtny made a mistake and would be the first to admit it and I don't see anybody justifying what she did. Im guessing no one feels worse about it then she does. Those of you who have never made a mistake -- feel free to keep criticizing.

Will said...

Hope she doesn't get in too much hot water for this.

Anonymous said...

If you have ever personally been assigned to a murder/death story and have had to talk to the victim's family, you know how much it sucks. In a perfect world, we'd let them mourn privately and would all just leave a business card a note saying "Call us if/when you would like to talk".
However, there is always a news director or assignment editor or consultant driving reporters to "get the widow on the set" because they are so scared of having the competition get the first sot with the family. All the consultants are pushing new operations to hammer the "you saw it here first" angle on promos, so everyone in the news room feels that pressure. This happens to reporters once in a thousand times and Courtny just got unlucky. Unless you have been a tv news reporter, shut your pie hole. You dont know anything about how it works and the pressures that exist. By the way, Courtny was only stuck on "fluff" stories in Omaha because she got on the sh** list somehow with the news director at WOWT. This is a capable, intelligent woman who is really way too bright to have to waste her time doing crap like this in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I'll shut my pie hole when you pin heads stop acting like a**holes, how's that? Don't hide behind that "there is always a news director or assignment editor or consultant driving reporters to "get the widow on the set" b.s. If it goes against what you believe, then quit. It IS a free don't have to do that work if you hate it so much. It's been said before, but it bears repeating...the guards in the concentration camps were "just doing their jobs", too. Just because "it's your job", doesn't excuse the rotten behavior.

Anonymous said...

Many of us have left the business for just that reason. Also, there was no "rotten" behavior at play here. Despite whatever axe it is you feel the need to grind, the fact remains that Courtny did not wake up and say "hey let me do something insensitive today." I think that you should stick to chatting online all day with babes, Kip.

Michael Carnes said...

Courtney was the best eye candy in Omaha...was sorry to see her go...especially to Milwaukee (???)

Anonymous said...

I'm poster #4. If you all think we journalists are all of the same mind (that we enjoy this kind of thing and that Courtny was doing the right thing), take a look at this link:;f=6;t=000584

It's to a forum of TV News journalists. See what they have to say about all this. Then make your decisions.

And FYI, I am not defending Courtny going to the family before the cops do.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Courtny at all, but I have worked for her boss in the past and I can tell you he is DEFINITELY a "get the widow on the set" boss. I got caught in a similar situation when I worked for him, and I count it as the lowest point in my entire career. It was the moment when I decided that I had to leave that station, no matter how I left or where I went.

As far as some of the ignorant, non-TV news workers posting on here: when's the last time you DIDN'T change the channel when the news led with state budget cuts? And do you honestly, truly believe that reporters and photographers WANT to knock on doors? It's probably the most hated duty in the business.

And if you think we're money whores, you should take a look at what salaries in TV news are REALLY like, especially for reporters and photographers in a market the size of Omaha. Oh, and none of us gets a dime more or less if the ratings go up or down. It's our bosses, and our bosses' bosses who see the bonuses and the cash.

So, if you have a problem with TV news, DON'T direct it at reporters like Courtny, or the anchor on your local news. You're best off calling the news director or the general manager, because they are the ones who make the decisions. Just because you see a face on TV, it doesn't mean that person has any control over content.

The burnout and turnover rate in TV news is very high. Quit beating up on her. My educated guess is that she didn't do it on purpose, she never would have called if she realized they hadn't been notified and she probably feels awful about it.

I know I still have not forgiven myself for that moment nearly a decade ago when I did a very similar thing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the previous comment. I do know Courtny and did work with her at WOWT. She is absolutely not a tabloid/cut-throat type of reporter who stomps around recklessly just to "get the story." Some idiots in the business wear such a label as a badge of honor. They are morons.

It's interesting that you rarely hear about someone on the news side regretting their decision to get out of the business. That speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

Why should any of this surprise a person, no matter which side they're on. We're a nation...make that a world....that craves sensationalistic sleaze. The more the better. And that's EXACTLY what news directors and their minions give us. Taste, decorum, and common sense? Please. Stop living in fantasy land. We live to see Farah Fazol stick a microphone in the face of someone who just got their throat slashed, hoping for that last gasp of breath, that dying utterance on TV in the name of ratings. Shame on Courtney and her news director? Shame on us for creating the environment in the first place.

Anonymous said...

And there you have it, a passionate debate to say the least.

I don't have a problem with Garrish's call, but here's an example of crossing the line:

A DJ calls a gas station where an armed gunman is holding a bystander hostage. The DJ tries to negotiate with the gunman over the phone WHILE THE POLICE WERE UNABLE TO GET THROUGH.

The ratings for that radio station went through the roof even though the station was reprimanded and promised never to do it again.

Anonymous said...

You all are assuming the story about her calling first before the cops is true. Did anyone stop to think that maybe, just maybe there's another side to this?

Obbop said...


Those posting here involved with the broadcast industry should quit wasting time and go dig up a new slant about Spears or Nicole Smith or some other modern-day "hero" so as to enlighten the citizenry and educate the masses to perform their civic duty as enlightened individuals.

Anonymous said...

More tripe from Ted/Sean's long lamented closed site whore Obbop. Just love hearing his/her educated opinions. (sarcasm off)
Clue #1. If you don't like the state of the local newscasts - DO NOT WATCH/DO NOT POST ON LOCAL TV IF IT TURNS YOUR STOMACH. Pick up a book once in a while.
It's obvious that you have NO knowledge of how and why local newscasts work, so please do us a favor & quit wasting OUR time with your constant bleating about things you can't change and know nothing about.

Anonymous said...

Wow, a little bitter, are we? Give it a rest, Suzanne. Rock on Obbop!!!

Anonymous said...

So, obbop, you're basically saying you want to hear crap about Spears and Anna Nicole Smith. Hmmm...I thought this town had some citizens with brains. Guess not.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we'll drop the REAL news and cover the tabloid crap...just like you want us to!

Anonymous said...

As a police officer, it's procedure and common sense to make a death notification IN PERSON. You have to make sure you have the right person and you're notifying the right family. We haven't really heard what the situation involving the death was (other than a shooting of a boxing instructor). If it was the case that the victim was well-known, the whole neighborhood (with the exception of his wife it seems) already knew. Four to five hours at a crime scene is not unheard of, however, on the surface in this case, Milwaukee PD probably could have done this sooner (many of the readers on this site probably have no idea of how MPD operates - it makes Omaha look good - -that ain't saying much).
Using the telephone is not a smart idea in a death case. Courtny should have known that.

Anonymous said...

As I am poster #5, all this just serves to prove my point that it is all in the name of good television and ratings. The "voyeurs" (viewers) love to see this crap and the "pornographers" (newscasters, directors, General managers...whatever) just give the voyeurs the "mind candy" they crave and then we are all piously righteous in our outrage. God I love debates like this!

Obbop said...

"More tripe from Ted/Sean's long lamented closed site whore Obbop"

Well, this old coot shanty dweller may be a whore BUT, I ain't a cheap one!!!!!

Unlike so many in the broadcast/journalism industry.

For the record, I, the Mighty Obbop, was once a vital part of the newspaper industry.

Got those pesky papers on the doorsteps pert' near always on time. When I felt like it.

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