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Amy Jacobson's Resumé

Last week Robert Feder reported that former Channel 5 broadcaster Amy Jacobson had put her North Side house up for sale.

"With her income suddenly reduced, she and her family are considering renting a place or moving in with her in-laws across the street," Feder wrote. "But that doesn't mean she's leaving town."

"I still want to stay in Chicago and continue to work here," she told Feder.

Any chance of that?

Let's review her resumé.

*

"In 2001, when I was deployed to Las Vegas to cover the arrest of an Indiana school principal after his cross-country kidnap odyssey with a pre-teen pupil, Amy Jacobson was there working the story for NBC 5," Chuck Goudie wrote in his Daily Herald column.

"My first stop was the motel where the principal, William Beith, and the sixth-grade girl had stayed. A motel room was home base for the bizarre Beith, who had planned to start a new life with the girl.

"According to the front desk, since his arrest hours earlier, the room had been cleaned and was just available for rent. Checking in was the only way to videotape it for our report.

"So my crew and I paid for the room for 24 hours. We took some video inside and then closed the blinds, locked the door and left. The video we took inside the room was part of our story on the 6:00 news.

"Four hours later, videotape shot inside that same motel room was seen in Ms. Jacobson's report on the NBC5 News at 10. When we went back to the motel to see how that was possible, we found that the front window to the room had been jimmied open. Someone had evidently climbed inside and had even broken the air-conditioning unit beneath the window while jumping down.

"Maybe I should have filed a breaking and entering complaint with the police, because it was our duly rented room. Instead, I just chalked it up to an overzealous competitor . . . who was obviously living in the wrong era."

*

"Around Wilmington, rumors began to swirl that the Foxes were using money donated to a 'Riley fund' for extravagant vacations and luxury purchases. Melissa was seen getting a fancy haircut at the mall. She had traded in the Ford Escape for a new car," Bryan Smith wrote in a Chicago magazine account of the Kevin Fox saga. "The couple had gone gambling in Las Vegas. They were vacationing in the Ozarks. Some questioned why a reward had never been offered. On October 11th, a report by Amy Jacobson, the tall blond reporter from Chicago's NBC 5, gave voice to the whispers. A 'source,' his face hidden behind a black blob, his voice disguised, repeated the rumors in Jacobson's 'exclusive' interview. (Today, Jacobson tells Chicago that she later 'felt awful' and regretted the report. But because so many people had called with similar observations about the Foxes' spending habits, the station decided it couldn't ignore the rumors.)

"The next day, an article and editorial in the local paper, The Free Press Advocate, excoriated Jacobson and NBC 5 and told the family's account: Melissa had traded in the car because she couldn't bear how it reminded her of trips around town with Riley. The Las Vegas trip was to attend a friend's wedding and had been planned and paid for months before Riley's death. The trip to the Ozarks had been for another friend's wedding. And the Fox family had indeed suggested a reward be offered, only to be told by police it was unnecessary.

"Nonetheless, the family members were deeply hurt by the TV report, as well as by the realization that people in town were gossiping about them. Chad Fox looked on the rumors as confirmation that Kevin - still not represented by a lawyer - was a suspect, perhaps the only suspect. In early October, Chad, a stockbroker, approached [attorney Kathleen] Zellner, who coincidentally worked across the hall from Chad in Naperville. She had been following the case in the media, and she urged Chad to get his brother to talk to her. Kevin again refused. 'He kept saying, The DNA will clear me,' Chad says. 'I felt helpless and frustrated.'"

*

For what it's worth, that's the same Kathleen Zellner that Jacobson hired to represent her before her bosses after her little pool party imbroglio.

*

"Attorney Ronald A. Stearney Jr., who represented the family of a 6-year-old boy killed in a 2005 plane accident outside Midway Airport, accused Jacobson of 'a classic bait and switch' at that time for dangling a big appearance on NBC's Today to secure a Channel 5 interview with the late boy's family," the Tribune reported. "Stearney said Tuesday 'she is able to deliver the interviews at whatever costs.'"

*

"I thought I'd be making headway in becoming friendly with that side of the family as well because I'm very good friends with Lisa Stebic's family," Jacobson told WGN-AM. "Did I step over the line? Probably. Yes. I know that I did. I know that I made a horrible mistake."

*

"I talk to cops and sources all the time," she told Eric Zorn. "They call me, I call them."

Zorn: "When I pressed her on the practice of sharing information with authorities before sharing it with viewers or her bosses, she said, 'Don't reporters normally do that?'"

-

So will Amy Jacobson work in Chicago - or anywhere in the media - again? Only at a future employer's peril.

-

BONUS UPDATE 3/12/08: Jacobson tells Feder that a Law & Order plot loosely based on Jacobson's pool party fiasco is "[J]ust another reminder of the high price I had to pay for trying to do my job."



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Posted on August 24, 2007


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