A Tucson TV-news site reviewed its policies with staff members on Sunday after posting a Web article claiming falsely that Scottsdale family-killer Robert Fisher had been captured.
The article was published briefly on Sunday on the website tucsonnewsnow.com, which is home to both CBS-affliliate KOLD-TV (Channel 13) and Fox-affiliate KMSB (Channel 11). As a cached version on Google shows, it appeared to confuse the facts of a story from over the weekend in which a bogus tip about Robert Fisher at a Colorado home led to the arrests of two men.
Posted at 7:46 p.m. on Sunday, the article stated that Fisher, one of the most wanted men in the country after killing his wife and two children in 2001, "is now behind bars."
It went on to say, "Investigators have confirmed a man arrested in Colorado is 53-year-old Robert Fisher," and that a tip led to his capture.
But Fisher was never at the home, much less arrested -- and authorities never said that he was. As other news outlets in Arizona and around the country reported, police only found two suspicious men at the Commerce City, Colorado, home. The two men ran when police showed up investigating a tip that Fisher had been there, and an officer fired a shot at one of the men before both suspects were taken into custody.
"It turned out to be a bogus tip" about Fisher, Commerce City Detective Mike Saunders tells New Times. In a scenario that has been repeated several times in the 13-year hunt for Fisher, police had received information about a man who resembled the fugitive closely. This time, the Fisher lookalike had been seen at a house in Commerce City.
"There was no connection to the guy wanted in Arizona," Saunders says. "It doesn't appear Robert Fisher was ever there."
Michelle Germano, news director for KOLD-TV, didn't want to get into how the "egregious" error happened. But "there have been consequences," she says.
Although journalist Colton Shone's name is at the top of the story in an apparent byline, Shone only posted the article online and didn't write it, she says. Germano declined to identify the author.
The story was on the website for about 10 minutes before the unnamed reporter read an article on azcentral.com about the Fisher tip in Colorado and realized a mistake had been made. The bad info wasn't broadcast on the airwaves.
Also, the reporter should have corrected the facts rather than removing the article entirely from the website, Germano says.
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"All those involved have been talked with," she says. "We take these matters very seriously."
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.