Warrior Reporter

Channel 4's Becky Oliver is queen of ambush journalism, wielding her microphone like a sword. Sure it's cheap and sensational. It's also a lot harder than it looks.

Channel 4 investigative reporter Becky Oliver makes it look easy. The ambush, that is. But ambushing somebody is harder than it looks, especially for a first-timer like myself and especially if the target is Becky Oliver.

On paper, Oliver is the winner of countless awards for investigative reporting. On TV, she comes off like Xena: Warrior Princess. It is an image Oliver and KDFW-TV sell. The would-be actress, they boast, has closed down businesses, changed laws and put more than a dozen "bad guys" behind bars. But is Becky Oliver as ballsy in person as she is on air?

There were two ways to find out: watch her on tape and interview her in person.

Becky Oliver reports that DART employees are running amok with corporate credit cards. The stories upset DART officials, who say she didn't find a single example of any wrongdoing on their part. Below, Oliver singled out a DART policy she found questionable.
Becky Oliver reports that DART employees are running amok with corporate credit cards. The stories upset DART officials, who say she didn't find a single example of any wrongdoing on their part. Below, Oliver singled out a DART policy she found questionable.

First came the tapes of Oliver, taken by a couple of her news-report targets who'd recently turned their cameras on her. In one, she backs out of an interview she requested when she sees it's being videotaped. Very un-warrior like. In the other, however, she lives up to her image. That tape was made last fall, when Oliver showed up at a local attorney's office for a follow-up to a story she aired about a chiropractor who allegedly drugged and raped a client. The original story has won Oliver a nomination for "Journalist of the Year" by the Press Club of Houston. In March, it also got her and KDFW-TV sued for defamation. On the tape, the attorney resorts to lecturing Oliver when his attempt to ambush her fails.

"Reporting the news is a privilege, Ms. Oliver. It's a very serious responsibility, and you don't seem to take it that way," he tells her.

"I've put my heart and soul in this business for almost 20 years," Oliver responds. "I take it very, very seriously."

Good to know. Because Oliver is taken seriously by viewers. She is Dallas' version of Geraldo, a latter-day Mike Wallace who not only plays "Gotcha!" with the bad guys, but looks daring doing it. It's a method for which she is both vilified and praised by viewers and peers.

Nothing wrong with that. But an increasing number of critics question whether she takes her ethics as seriously as she does her sensational quest for ratings. They ask: Does she cut corners and bend the truth to get high-profile exclusives? Has the pressure of working for perennially last-place, Fox-owned Channel 4 gotten to her so much that she reports what she thinks, facts be damned? Does Oliver consider herself a serious journalist, or will she admit that her on-camera antics are just a shtick designed to entertain rather than inform?

Being a reporter herself, I figured Oliver would have no problem granting an interview. In fact, after checking with her bosses, Oliver agrees to get together. First, though, she wants to know what questions I am going to ask. It was the first time, but not the last, the warrior reporter flinched.

"This isn't my forte to be on the receiving end of these things," she snaps. Later she says, "I don't view this as a piece that could make Becky Oliver look good."


To get some preliminary advice on ambush tactics, I call an old colleague of Oliver's to find out how Oliver does it. I'm not sure I'm going to do it for this story, but the information couldn't hurt. Could it?

The first thing an ambusher must do is determine where the ambush should take place. In Oliver's case, an obvious choice would be downtown at KDFW-TV. The former insider tells me that won't work. To avoid a trespassing charge, a kosher ambush is performed on public land. At the station, Oliver is said to park inside an attached parking ramp. By the time she hits the street, she will be inside her car and able to elude.

At her house, then?

Home is better, the source agrees. This source, who requests anonymity for fear this blabbing will "burn all my bridges," doesn't like Oliver and believes her work is a disgrace to the genre of television investigative reporting. "She's so loud and so obnoxious, we thought for a while she had a hearing problem. Everything is all about her. 'Me. Me. Me. Me.' She's a case," the source says, adding, "I've met some princesses in television newsrooms, but she takes the princess cake."

The idea of ambushing Oliver--to use the same tactic she has used to establish her reputation as local TV's fearless crime fighter--elicits glee from this source. Particularly if the ambush is done at her house, where her six children live. Oliver, I'm told, is paranoid that the people she's exposed in her exclusive "I-Team" reports will seek revenge on her children. "This will inflame her."

Yeah, I think, an ambush would be fun.

For weeks, I had been weighing allegations that Oliver's confrontational tactics, combined with distorted video images, had resulted in stories that created false impressions of wrongdoing at DART and, to a lesser extent, the Dallas Independent School District.

Exhibit 1: During April and the May sweeps period, Oliver appeared to nail a story about how DART employees are running amok with the transit agency's credit cards and living large at the taxpayers' expense. Meanwhile, her reports implied, DART officials were clueless about the abuse and, worse, evasive when she confronted them. The stories upset DART officials, who say Oliver didn't find a single example of any wrongdoing on their part.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
TOMMYMCCORD
TOMMYMCCORD

Dear Becky, my daughter boyfriend a(21 year old covicted felon) was watching my granddaughter (1 1/2 old) yesterday in arlington at his apartment. He left her in the crib and left the apartment alone. Arlington PD was called for a crying baby. When the police arrived. he was not there. I was told by officer that she was let alone by at least 20 min. They booked him and took him in. He was out of jail less than 24 hours. Arlington police and judicial system is a joke. If your are intrested in this story, my email address is tommymccord@att.net. I am a tax payer in Arlington and I am very disappointed in this outcome. Pressure needs to be put on the city of Arlington. This can not continue. P.S. obiviousley CPS is a waste of tax payers money. Yours Truley, Tom MCcORD

Delores Burton
Delores Burton

dear becky i am presently involved in a nursing home dispute with city viewnursing facilityin ft worth where my husband has been a patient for the past 14 months. they are trying toforceably dismiss him for his behavior. he is an 82 yr old navy veteran, blind amputeeincompetent ,plus other related disorders. i am his 73 year old wife of 55 years, and i amout numbered , can you help me?

cynthia lock
cynthia lock

Dear Becky, I ordered the Kymaro body shaper by phone. The rep. told me what size to order.When it arrived I tried to fit into the cami, only to get it stuck at my arm pits. I had to call for help to pry it off.I called the company to ask for a shipping label and was told I had to pay for that myself. I was also told that there was not a supervisor at work. then told she was on break, and to call cutomer service which I found was closed. I had to tell the rep that I was recording the call before I even got any of that information. Can you help me?

Tarla D Powell
Tarla D Powell

I sent you a comment before.I really need your help in finding a lawyer to help me with a medical malpractice suite for my son who is suffering from a permanent disfigurement in his face from a routine visit to the dentist.I have contacted over 50 lawyer and attorneys and they have all turned down my case and I told them I have photos of my sons injury and a witness that was with me and knows that my sons face was fine until we came from the dentists office.Please Ms Oliver help me with this matter I have been trying to get legal help since March when the incident occured.I will give you copies of the photos and a detailed interview with you but I truely need your assistance in this matter.Tarla Powell

Russell Putman
Russell Putman

i also have been scamed by A.T.I. by the promise of job placement after my 4.0 GPA the placement list consist of bankrupt A.C. company's wich not only don't pay thier bills but don't pay people sent to them by ATI ......and ATI said, "{well your the 5th person that has said that". then why send me? also the list of contacts was a duplicate i was given in june sa it was in october.............. Hello!! why? then said they could no lonbger help me ............now that they have been paid. Salley Maie now wants thier money while io still have no job and said i should take another job doing something else ... NO ONE ELSE WOULD HIRE ME THATYS WHY I WENT TO SCHOOL.........DUH!.THEY HAVE(a.t.i.) THEIR MONEY THEY DON'T CARE ANY MORE 22. THOUSAND DOLLARS....AND THEY "PROMISE JOB PLACEMENT"..AND I'M STILL HUNGRY AND BROKE

Vanda Crowe
Vanda Crowe

I just felt it necessary to inform you about something very "ungreen" that is currently going on in the nearby town of The Colony. It seems that the city is in the process of redoing many many residential and commercial streets. This process has included removing 20 to 30 large native trees, per street, that are 30 to 40+ years old. The city is telling residents and business owners of the properties that they need to cut straight down several feet right beside the curbs in the parkways where these trees were originally planted. They are being told that the trees will probably die. The homeowner can opt to keep the trees on his/her property but if they die, they will be responsible for removing them. The alternative, is that the city will just remove them up front, and it won't cost the homeowner anything. In driving around this little town, I was aghast to see how many trees are marked for removal. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. These are liveoaks, etc. I don't know if you can or would evern want to try to investigate this situation but in this current time of "saving the earth", this seems quite inappropriate. It will totally change the landscape of this community. I am not even a resident of this community but still think it is awful and needs to be brought to the attention of someone who would know what to do.

mary schield
mary schield

this must be the same becky oliver who was a reporter in phoenix in the late '80's. her photos appear to indicate it's the same obnoxious woman. she dated then married a kicker (not very good) from the phoenix cardinals. they lived in my townhouse subdivision. she was always yapping loudly at the pool. i'll never forget the day she was bragging at the pool (to anybody who would listen) about her interview with a widow who lost her husband in the detroit/phoenix plane crash that killed all on board except a 4 year old girl (the 20 year anniversary is 8/16/07). it was the one year anniversary of the disaster and she was bound and determined to get the widow to cry on camera. she talked (on camera) to the widow for several minutes then went for what she knew would send the widow into tears. she asked the widow about her husband's wallet having been found in the wreckage. she was so pleased with herself that bringing this up brought the widow to tears. all this was presented in kind of a journalism 101 tone, how to get victims to cry for the camera. after that day, i made sure i went out of my way to avoid ever watching her report again.

p.s. she was lousy besides, always sniffling, etc. can't believe she still has a job in the industry.

 
Loading...