There’s nothing like a good media scandal to send tongues wagging.
And, for the past year, the good folks of Philadelphia have been watching a real doozy.
It began last summer, when former KYW-TV anchor Alycia Lane became tabloid fodder, after exchanging e-mails (and bikini photos of herself) with Rich Eisen, the former ESPN sportscaster who now works for the NFL network. The e-mails were quickly leaked to the press, along with a tart reply from Eisen’s wife, Suzy Shuster.
Lane’s career at KYW came to an end a few months later, after she was accused of striking a police officer during a trip to New York City. However, felony charges filed against Ms. Lane were later dropped, and according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, summary charges are expected to be dropped this summer. At that point, her record will be cleared.
At last report, Ms. Lane and her attorneys were still negotiating a settlement with CBS, which owns KYW-TV. At the time of her dismissal, the anchorwoman was earning a reported $700,000 a year.
But one question in the Lane saga remained unanswered. Exactly who leaked those saucy e-mails and photos between the Philly anchor and Mr. Eisen? The smart money was on Ms. Shuster, is a former ABC sportscaster who knows her way around media circles. Shuster certainly had the motivation and the connections to humiliate Alycia Lane publicly.
On the other hand, maybe it’s time to rethink the Shuster connection. It now appears that Ms. Lane’s tormentor may have been as close as the co-anchor’s chair. As Michael Klein of the Inquirer reports:
Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation of CBS3 anchor Larry Mendte, searched his home and confiscated his personal computer, to determine whether he illegally accessed the private e-mail of former colleague Alycia Lane, numerous sources told The Inquirer yesterday.
Mendte's lawyer, Michael A. Schwartz, confirmed tonight that FBI agents approached his client on Thursday and searched his Chestnut Hill home.
Told of Schwartz's statement, Lane's attorney, Paul R. Rosen, said: "Alycia Lane did not make any claims involving anyone. The investigation by the FBI and the direction it took was done by the federal government and not by Alycia Lane.
"She was shocked when she learned of any invasion of her privacy," Rosen said.
The station issued a statement tonight that read: "Late this week CBS3 became aware of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding anchor Larry Mendte. CBS3 is cooperating fully with that office in this investigation."
Sources tell the Inquirer that the FBI is investigating whether Mendte read Lane’s personal e-mails. It is a federal crime to read someone else’s e-mails without their permission.
Before her dismissal, Lane and Mendte had been the primary anchor team at KYW for almost five years. They were widely credited for lifting the station out of last place in the local ratings, and making it a solid number two, behind perennial market leader WPVI, which is owned by ABC.
Mr. Mendte and Ms. Lane seemed to have a genuine chemistry on the air, and they easily connected with viewers. But, as anyone who’s worked in TV news can tell you, appearances are often deceiving. Unfortunately, the stereotype of anchors who smile and joke while the camera is on—then scream at each other when the red light goes off—isn’t that far from reality, at least in some newsrooms.
When sportscaster (and former big-league pitcher) Jim Bouton worked at WABC-TV in New York in the 1970s, the news team was promoted as a big, happy family. “We Really Like Each Other,” one advertisement read. In reality, Bouton recalled, members of the Eyewitness News crew couldn’t stand each other.
So far, there have been no reports of off-camera battles between the former co-anchors. But, if the federal allegations are true, Mr. Mendte (apparently) rummaged through Lane’s e-mails on multiple occasions, and he’s emerged as a primes suspect for those embarrassing media leaks. Not exactly something you’d do to a friend.
But entirely consistent with the cut-throat world of TV news.