Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is Rochester, NY News Media Biased? Is there a Conflict of Interest when Reporters such as YNN's Cristina Domingues, who is Married to a Rochester Police Lieutenant, are In Charge of Covering Stories of Police Misconduct?

Rochester, NY Police Lt. Frank Umbrino with his wife
Rochester YNN News reporter Cristina Domingues

By Davy V.

Last week, someone sent me the photo on the right, with the question "Can Rochester news media be objective when reporting issues such as police and official misconduct and corruption when reporters are married to cops?"

The photo shows Rochester, NY Police Lieutenant Frank Umbrino, a public servant, with with his wife, and Rochester YNN News reporter Cristina Domingues.

For years, Rochester, NY news media outlets Channel 8, 10, 13, and YNN News have shown a clear bias in favor of law enforcement, especially the Rochester, NY Police department as well as City and County officials.

Cristina Domingues being married to Rochester, NY Police Lt. Frank Umbrino is disturbing, in that it brings up questions of her ability as a professional, to remain objective when reporting/covering news stories involving misconduct and corruption on the part of the RPD, but it isn't the only example of Rochester news reporters being married to law enforcement and/or City and County officials.

I know of at least a handful of other Rochester news reporters who are married to or involved with police officers and City and County officials.

In fact, a few are having affairs with married law enforcement officers, but we won't get into that.

When former Monroe County Crime Lab director Janet Anderson-Seaquist came under fire and was later fired for alleged improper handling and destruction of evidence, Rochester's 13WHAM news reporter Evan Dawson, whose wife worked at the Monroe County Crime Lab for 5 years, disclosed this to the public in a June 13, 2012 story on 13WHAM'S website where he wrote "For five years, my wife worked in the Monroe County Crime Lab. She remains friendly with some of the staff. For that reason, I keep professional distance from stories involving the lab, and particularly stories about law enforcement politics. I report on the lab when I know there is no potential for bias, but often, I choose to allow my colleagues to cover such stories"

Obviously, Dawson, as a professional, realized that his wife having worked at the Monroe County Crime Lab for several years, was enough for him, again, as a professional to maintain a safe distance from any stories involving the Crime Lab, especially stories of alleged misconduct corruption, etc.

Which is why it is understandable that someone would send me a photo of a news reporter who is married to a Rochester Police Lt. and ask "Can Rochester, NY news media be objective in their reporting?"

Well, can it?

Can YNN News Reporter Cristina Domingues be objective, in say, reporting and/or covering a news story involving misconduct and corruption on behalf of the Rochester, NY Police department?

Does the fact that she is married to RPD Lieutenant Frank Umbrino, mean that as a news reporter there is a conflict of interest in her reporting on issues involving the RPD?

Especially stories of abuse, or corruption on the part of the RPD?

Should YNN News reporter Cristina Domingues, just as 13WHAM's Evan Dawson did, remove herself from reporting on or covering any stories related to the Rochester, NY Police department?

After calling YNN News and speaking with "Matt", he indeed confirmed what I already knew, that YNN News reporter Cristina Domingues has covered and continues to cover stories about the Rochester, NY Police department, including stories of misconduct and corruption on the part of the RPD.

When I asked "Matt" did he think that given the fact that YNN's reporter, Cristina Domingues is married to RPD Lt. Frank Umbrino, there could be a conflict of interest, "Matt", became very defensive, answering my question with his own question, asking me "Why would you think that would be a conflict?"

And that's when I knew that I had a good story.

Because I hit a nerve.

Are you kidding me?

"Why would you think that would be a conflict?"

Let's see...


Because she's married to a cop?

After calling YNN News again,  and this time speaking with "Lynn" who said she was a "manager", Lynn, much like Matt, became very defensive when I told her about my article. After denying that any conflict existed, she asked me not to "in any way, quote her on anything she told me", but not before trying to downplay the fact that YNN, and her reporter Cristina Domingues are teetering on a thin line of journalism ethics.

She directed me to YNN's director, Ed Buttacio, and told me that he would be the one to comment.

Here is the email I sent to YNN News director Ed Buttaccio...

Mr. Buttaccio;

Recently someone sent me a picture of Rochester, NY Police Lt. Frank Umbrino with his wife, Cristina Domingues. Along with the picture, the person posed an interesting question... Basically, doesn't the fact that Cristina Domingues regularly (as "Matt" confirmed yesterday when I called the station) reports on and covers news stories involving the Rochester, NY Police department, including stories of misconduct, corruption, etc. isn't that a conflict of interest?

Earlier I spoke with Lynn, as I was seeking a comment from the station on this, and Lynn very emphatically asked me not to quote her in any way. She told me you would be the one to comment on this.
So Mr. Buttaccio, what are you thoughts on this? Is it a conflict of interest? Can Cristina Domingues be objective and fair in  her reporting?

His reply?

A very short, vague, one sentence PR style response, which in no way answers my questions to him.

"YNN has long-standing practices in place to ensure that all of our reports meet professional journalism and ethical standards."

Note: While some may question the fact that someone took a picture of RPD Sgt. Umbrino, it is important to remind readers, and the RPD, that taking photographs and recording law enforcement officers is perfectly legal and protected under the United States Constitution.

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For the past 15 years I have dedicated myself and my passion to exposing police misconduct and corruption. Whether it's exposing injustices such as police executing a mentally ill person, or police coming to someone's home and shooting their innocent family dog, I am always working to put these stories out there, which usually are ignored by mainstream media.

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