Carl Monday (courtesy WKYC)
Carl Monday, an investigative reporter with WKYC-TV in Cleveland, received wide attention recently for a story on sexual misbehavior in area libraries. Earlier in May, WKYC broadcast a weeklong series by Monday, “The DUI Dilemma,” which followed the exploits of a chronic drunk driving offender, Patrick “Bubba” Naska. Monday, 55, who was named “Best TV Investigator” by Cleveland Scene, has won 42 regional Emmys in his career. CJR Daily spoke with Monday last week.
Edward B. Colby: Your reporting is relentless, and two of your recent main subjects, Michael Cooper and Patrick “Bubba” Naska, were later arrested after your stories about them aired. But when one of your stories ends with you taking refuge in your car from a father going berserk, and [another includes] Bubba saying, “I’m about ready to kill you,” no matter how intoxicated he was, do you ever think, “Hey, maybe I’ve gone too far?”
Carl Monday: Well, first of all, I don’t think our intention when we decide to take on a story is necessarily to get somebody arrested, or make life miserable for anybody. In both of these cases, the story kind of took on a life of its own, especially with the library story. In the case of Bubba, we felt we had to approach him at some point, and he was all too willing to talk to us, so we just let him ramble on. I think we’d asked him what right did he have to be behind the wheel and putting us all at risk, I think it’s a question that our viewers would have asked if they had been put in that position.
As far as the library story, again, we started off just doing a story. We got statistics and crime reports from the Cleveland and [other] public library systems, and we found, I think just in the past six months, over 50 examples of significant crimes being committed in the library, and a lot of sex-related crimes. And when we found that we said, well, let’s take a hidden camera into the library, and just see what’s happened. We certainly didn’t expect to find somebody [23-year-old Michael Cooper] actually masturbating in the library. And then when we got the video, we spent actually, I bet you it was two weeks before we arrived at a decision on what to do with the video, and we agreed that it was representative of some of the kinds of things that we found in the reports themselves. We felt that it was the right thing to do to air the video, but we naturally wanted to sanitize it as much as possible to make it acceptable for air.
We didn’t have any complaints about the video itself. Nobody complained that “Hey, you were too graphic,” or that “You put sexually-related video on the air,” but there were questions about whether we should have put it on in the first place. Again, that decision was made based on the fact that we had complaints of a lot of sexual activity in the library, sometimes in front of minors; a lot of downloading of sexual content, of sexual predators in the library, sexual predators approaching librarians, grabbing librarians, and on and on and on — sex in the bathroom. So that was what was behind that decision process.
EBC: But still, many bloggers, as you put it, “seemed more than ready to tar and feather” you. Do you think some of their criticisms were justified in terms of the library story, or would you still present the story the same way next time around?
CM: Yeah, they’re certainly entitled to their opinion. We expected to take some heat for it. I think we could have done a better job of making clearer that, one, he was an adult and fully responsible for his actions. We did tell the audience that this was not his first time doing this. He admitted it, so did the library, and I think that was part of our decision process, as well, that he’d been doing this on more than one occasion.