Local television news personalities rarely break from the demeanors they present on camera, even on other platforms, so it was a bit startling on Saturday when WRC anchor Doreen Gentzler posted on Facebook her personal assessment of the Washington NFL team’s latest debacle, a marital dispute between general manager Scot McCloughan and his wife, Jessica, that has dragged in the name of ESPN reporter Dianna Russini.
In a string of since-deleted tweets, Jessica McCloughan accused Russini, who previously worked for WRC, carrying out an affair with her husband. The accusation—for which Jessica McCloughan eventually apologized—was fodder for tabloid websites. Most DC stations left it alone on their news broadcasts last week, but some gave it significant air time, prompting Gentzler to vent.
“Maybe there was a news story regarding the public display of domestic turmoil for the Washington football team’s general manager,” Gentzler wrote on Facebook. “And some covered it that way. Was it a lead story? Was it worth 7 minutes of prime time news coverage? I don’t think so.”
Gentzler did not identify which station’s coverage inspired her criticism, although WTTG is a likely suspect. The Fox affiliate opened its 5 and 10 PM shows last Wednesday with reports about the McCloughans and Russini, including a five-minute segment in the latter broadcast. By comparison, the show produced by gossip website TMZ—which WTTG airs at 6:30—did not include anything about the McCloughans’ marriage last week.
Gentzler’s outright condemnation on her competitors’ is a surprise not because she’s coming to the defense of a former co-worker—other WRC personalities have also praised Russini’s reputation as a well-sourced NFL reporter—but because television anchors don’t often break character and speak personally. But the episode appears to have struck nerves inside the station.
“We are all just one anonymous internet posting away from public character assassination,” Gentzler wrote on Facebook. “I don’t want to contribute to it.”
From the look of the competition, though, it seems Gentzler and WRC had every reason to pass on the McCloughans last week. WTTG’s heavy coverage of a few mean-spirited tweets provided more than eight minutes of tabloid content to open two evening news broadcasts. But that may also be the current reality for coverage of the local professional football team, which offers very few on-field developments on which to report.