In YouTube Video Shot in Newsroom, KARK Reporters Spoof News Business

by Robert Bell  on Thursday, Jul. 8, 2010 2:31 pm  

KARK reporter Pete Thompson, in this screen grab from the Nexstar Broadcasting-owned NBC affiliate's website.

Employees at KARK-TV, Channel 4, are the stars of a profanity-laden spoof of broadcast news, now removed from YouTube, in which KARK news reporter Pete Thompson appears as a disgruntled news reporter in scenes shot inside KARK's newsroom and at the NBC affiliate's anchor desk.

The two videos, one posted in late June and another this week, were removed Thursday from the Google-owned video-sharing website, but are available here. They are titled "Report This!!!" and were posted to YouTube under the username SpoiledKidsPictures.

(Update: Four KARK employees have been fired as a result of the video. More here.)

In an interview Thursday with, Thompson confirmed that the videos were shot at KARK's studios in the Victory Building in Little Rock. The videos also incorporate what appears to be B-roll footage filmed at the Malvern Brickfest and the Rave movie theater in Little Rock.

When asked about the videos, Thompson said he didn't want to comment further.

"I think we're going to take those down," he said. "We were just doing some practice things for the 48-hour film festival coming up."

Asked whether his bosses were aware of the videos, Thompson said that he would have to speak with them about it.

"It's really not that big a deal," he said, and immediately hung up the phone.

Calls to KARK News Director Rob Heverling were not immediately returned. Station Manager Rick Rogala was out of the office and unable to comment. KARK is owned by Nexstar Broadcasting of Irving, Texas.

It not unusual for on-air reporters to have clauses in their employment contracts regarding off-camera public behavior. Such clauses are in place to prevent employees from reflecting poorly on their employer. It is not known what kind of contract KARK's on-air reporters might have.

Thompson's bio on KARK's website states that he has "a life-long passion for storytelling" and that he is "excited to report on this historic southern city with its rich tradition."

'Miami or Bust'

In the first video, "Miami or Bust," Thompson's character, "Pete Johnson," believes he's about to be offered a job at a Miami TV station. He constantly complains about his assignments in both voiceover and in dialogue with his co-workers.

When Thompson's character is assigned to cover the Malvern Brickfest, he complains, "Please God, get me the hell out of here."

"It was hot as s**t outside," he says later. "At least in Miami they have beaches. And good coke."

Toward the end of the episode, he slaps an interviewee and is reprimanded by his boss, played by KARK weekend anchor Courtney Collins. Collins did not immediately return calls for comment.

Thompson, in his role as KARK reporter, actually did attend Brickfest and filed a report for KARK's weekend newscast. Video of that report is available on KARK's website here. It contains some of the same B-roll shots used in the YouTube video.

In the second "Report This!!!" video, "Is This Mic On?", Collins' character reprimands Thompson's character for slapping the interviewee.

"You signed a contract when you started here that said you were going to represent the station," she said. She adds, "This really reflects badly on you," before informing him he must attend anger management courses.

Later in the episode, Thompson appears interviewing people standing in line to see the film "Twilight: Eclipse" at the Rave movie theater in west Little Rock.

While some identifying elements are blurred out, such as the KARK logo on a microphone Thompson uses, the second episode features scenes shot in the KARK newsroom and at the KARK anchor desk. Some scenes seem to feature other KARK employees. Another scene, at the Rave movie theater, feature former KTHV-TV, Channel 11, sports reporter Neil Sommerlatte, who left the station earlier this year and is now employed at KARK.

Arkansas Business and Gannett Co.-owned CBS affiliate KTHV have a news-sharing agreement.

According to KARK's website, Collins earned a journalism degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and Thompson earned a bachelor's in communications and liberal arts from the University of Texas at Austin.

This is not the first time the couple have been the subject of Internet video. Thompson proposed to Collins on-air during an April 2009 KARK newscast. Video of the proposal was featured on CNN and other broadcasts around the world.



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