We live in a world where something can “go viral” in just a few hours, but this may be one of the first news stories to go viral before it was even reported. John Kelley, a reporter from KDSK in St. Louis, was assigned an investigative story into local school security. The story was probably one for the end of the broadcast, the type usually teased throughout the news in ways that are simultaneously scary and ridiculous. “Can just anyone walk into local schools? Story at ten.” Or some other such nonsense.
However, at least in the case of Kirkwood High School, security wasn’t as lax as Kelley may have hoped. According to KMOV (a rival station) Kelley went into the Kirkwood office and asked to speak to the head of security. That person wasn’t available. Kelley then allegedly asked for directions to the restroom, but “the man walked down the hall, and turned into a different hallway.” The office secretary immediately called security prompting a half-hour lockdown in which students were kept in rooms with the lights off.
On KSDK’s website, they insist that the lockdown “was not the intent of our visit.” They also tell the story a little differently. They say that he asked for directions before asking to speak to the head of security. After learning that the student resource officer wasn’t available, they say that Kelley simply “left the premises without escort.” They also say he identified himself with his name and office phone number.
Other schools also received visits from Kelley, although most were able to identify him as a reporter immediately. According to KMOV, the principal of Bellerive Elementary overheard Kelley asking questions about security, so he involved himself. After asking his connection to the district, he “then asked if he was a reporter, to which the man said yes and left.” At another elementary school he said he wanted to discuss school security over the intercom and was given access to the building. There he allegedly denied he was a reporter twice before finally admitting it.
This stunt has raised questions about the ethics of such reporting. It seems, at least given Kelley’s reported results, that they were simply fishing for a “scary” story where there was no real problem. Had a specific school district been accused of lax security, an undercover report could be an appropriate way to highlight the specific weakness. Instead, since it seems Kelley was merely trolling for trouble, KDSK inadvertently went from covering the story to being the story.