Reporter Envy

This week, the paper version of Unfair Park has a detailed story on the fledgling romance between Dallas police chief David Kunkle and television reporter Sarah Dodd. Turns out the chief cares enough about Dodd to call us and defend her journalistic integrity. Other reporters, however, including some of Dodd's own KTVT-Channel 11 colleagues, say that Dodd's relationship with Kunkle is part of a broader pattern of getting too cozy with the City Hall folks she covers on her beat. Anyhow, because my editors didn't think you wanted to read a novella about L'Affair D'Kunkle, there were a few other points I wasn't able to include. They're after the jump.

First, Kunkle was remarkably friendly even as I was asking him some of the nosiest questions I have ever put to someone who carries a gun. Kunkle did ask that we keep his wife out of our reporting—we complied—and told us that he started dating Dodd after he filed for divorce. In what had to have been an awkward conversation, he informed his soon-to-be-former bride of his relationship with Dodd as the Dallas Morning News blog Bold Types was preparing to run its item about their relationship. About that initial report, which claimed that the couple had been seen "looking pretty intimate together," Kunkle said, "I don't think we were holding hands. We could have been, but I don't think we did."

Kunkle did want to stress that whatever happens with Dodd, that won't affect how he handles reporters from other stations.

"I treat all reporters fairly," he said. "I don't hide behind my media people. I talk to reporters on both good and bad stories."

Dodd was also rather affable in our phone interview. Although she wouldn't answer any questions about her relationship with Kunkle, she did answer all questions about her relationship with other reporters, particularly why some of her colleagues seemed to welcome this latest bit of gossip. In so doing, Dodd came off as dedicated, smart, ambitious and a tad self-absorbed, like every other journalist in America.

"In the past five years, we have broken the majority of major stories out of City Hall," Dodd said. "That is one area where no one has to worry about, and that's a benefit to everybody, so to someone who wants to see my comeuppance, I think that it is really sad and it confuses me. Comeuppance for what?"

Dodd also inadvertently revealed that she's not a great date: "I will take phone calls on a date. I always have my phone with me. If the mayor calls me, if the city manager calls me, I take the call, because that's how dedicated I am to knowing what's going on in City Hall, and I'm sure I have sacrificed a lot in my personal life because my work is a priority.

"I am an aggressive, hard competitor. I always have been. I go after a story with everything I have. The biggest part of my life is spent focusing on work."

Dodd also discussed an a comment from a rival reporter how she is too chummy with the mayor, at one point complimenting Miller on her appearance, including her shoes.

"I don't remember a specific time complimenting her," Dodd said. "I'm not saying it didn't happen, but I think it's silly to imply that if I compliment someone on their shoes that means I'm not going to do a hard story on them. If I were the person making that allegation, I'd be embarrassed that I was that petty, and if they think so little of the mayor that she'd give exclusives to people who like her shoes, that's really funny."

For my story, I did talk to several reporters at competing stations who had much to say about Dodd, but, of course, refused to say it with their names attached to their quotes. One thing about us journalists: We love to dish and run. Says one competitor: "During press conferences [Dodd] sometimes begins by saying, 'When we first broke this' or 'When we first broke that,' and you're just sitting there saying, 'Get to the fucking question.'"

One reporter who would go on the record was Rebecca Aguilar, an investigative reporter at KDFW-Channel 4. "It hurts to be a blond sometimes and a good-looking blond," she says of Dodd. "There are always people who are not going to like you. People are like vultures sometimes."

And, finally, a colleague of Dodd's absolutely thinks her affections for the chief are sincere: "If she wanted to date someone for her career, she'd date Mitchell Rasansky." --Matt Pulle