Spiked

Taxpayers are footing the bill for a death row inmate's media kit. How much, you ask?

Avila believes the ex is responsible for bringing his criminal background to light. (Buchanan, who does have journalistic principles, isn't blabbing about her original source for the Avila piece, which was based on Avila's extensive court files.)

However, in interviews with New Times, Avila repeatedly blamed his current troubles on the former husband, who he suspects dropped a dime on him through an anonymous e-mail.

"I'd like to take this to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and have a debate as to whether this is a story or not," Avila told Buchanan, "whether it's right for a news division to allow somebody with an ulterior motive to destroy somebody's life. It isn't right for us as journalists to be sent on attack missions, whether we view it as such or not."

Warren Summerlin's mdia kit includes photos of him at age 11 and as a young man, but not this Department of Corrections mug shot.
Warren Summerlin's mdia kit includes photos of him at age 11 and as a young man, but not this Department of Corrections mug shot.

The Spike couldn't agree more. Too bad Avila was talking about the other guy trying to do it to him. Mostly, he was trying to convince Buchanan that his own story (which includes two decades of arrests and incarcerations on charges ranging from assault to bank fraud and grand theft) was not a story at all. (The Spike would note the obvious here: that an extensive criminal background subverts the credibility of someone in the news business.)

Avila resigned as news director after talking to Buchanan, and was made an executive producer at the station.

Still, The Spike couldn't help but continue to shake its pointy little head when it tuned in to the morning news hour last week for, as Avila likes to call his shtick, The Big Story. In a story written by Avila but read on air by another reporter, Bob Baker, Avila claimed his nemesis was remiss on thousands of dollars in child support, hadn't paid taxes in a decade and is wanted on a warrant for a traffic violation.

The "special assignment" segment identified the deadbeat dad only as Alan David "last name withheld." KFNX labeled Alan David a "con man" who works "odd jobs." KFNX claims the man has not paid child support in 10 years, and that both the Sheriff's Office and the Department of Economic Security were wrapping up an investigation that would soon land this scofflaw in court.

Although Avila didn't use the guy's last name, he shared details regarding the man's profession, the location of his home, the ages of his children and even where his girlfriend works, making him easily identifiable. At least Alan David thinks so and is now threatening legal action against the station.

Station manager Mike Barna confirms that Avila was responsible for writing the copy Baker read on the air, and Barna maintains he was completely "unaware, I had no clue" that Avila was using the airwaves, and duping a colleague, to attack his perceived enemies.

Last Thursday, the day New Times hit the streets (and Barna's desk), Avila got the ax.

"That Thursday I read the New Times article and Avila and the station parted ways. I was totally shocked. There wasn't a doubt in my mind about what I had to do [with Avila]."

Spike us! E-mail spiked@newtimes.com or call Patti Epler at 602-229-8451.

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