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MEDIA / KEVIN BRASS : Tape of Garvey’s Ex: Was It a Scoop or a Snoop?

KFMB-TV(Channel 8) reporter Lorraine Kimel was on Channel 8’s “Sun Up San Diego” Friday morning talking about her exclusive interview with Rebecka Mendenhall, Steve Garvey’s ex-fiancee. Kimel’s phone interview was unique, the only time Mendenhall’s voice has been heard since the story of Garvey’s complicated love life broke two weeks ago.

However, the interview was not supposed to happen. Mendenhall, who last week filed a paternity suit against Garvey, says her brief conversation with Kimel was recorded and aired without her permission or knowledge.

Reached in Atlanta on Friday, Mendenhall, an assignment editor with CNN, said she is “disturbed” by Kimel’s taping of the brief interview and that she has contacted her attorneys about it. Although she has talked to several reporters and issued short statements, she purposely has avoided giving radio or television interviews, even to her own network.

“I just think it is an inappropriate way to deal with the situation,” Mendenhall said. “I think it is a private matter.”

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The interview Kimel aired Feb. 23 was brief and contained little information beyond what Mendenhall had already told reporters. When Kimel called, Mendenhall says she told her to contact her attorney. Kimel persisted, asking vague, conversational questions about Mendenhall’s health.

After she hung up the phone, Mendenhall says it occurred to her that Kimel might have taped the conversation.

“The tone of her questions and the way she was aggressively pursuing a sound bite made me suspicious,” Mendenhall said.

Kimel denies covertly taping the interview. She says she first contacted Mendenhall to request an interview in the morning. Mendenhall told her to call back in an hour, so she could have time to call her attorney. Kimel acknowledges that when she called back, Mendenhall said she did not want to be interviewed and referred questions to her attorney.

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However, Kimel says she specifically told Mendenhall to pause before answering questions because she was using a “clicker” phone with an audio switch, the type of phone commonly used for television phone interviews, in order to tape the interview. Mendenhall says Kimel never mentioned anything about recording the conversation.

“It was established when I called at 10 a.m. (the first call) that I was calling for an interview,” Kimel said. “She never said, ‘Don’t tape this.’ It was clear I was phoning for an interview. Someone in the business, especially in the television end, would know how it works.”

Channel 8 News Director Jim Holtzman said the original tape of the interview had been routinely recycled and was not available for review.

“It is certainly our policy here to tell people they’re being recorded,” Holtzman said.

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Laws concerning the taping of phone conversations differ from state to state.

“In California, if it is a confidential communication, all parties must give their consent to the taping,” said Terry Francke, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn.

However, the definition of a confidential conversation has never been addressed by the courts in the context of a journalistic inquiry, Francke said. Within the industry, though, it is considered extremely unethical to tape a conversation without a person’s consent.

Mendenhall said Kimel’s actions were “unfair.” Deluged by calls from reporters, Mendenhall changed her phone number shortly after Kimel’s call and has generally refused to discuss the case with reporters.

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“I have talked to people from other television stations, people like Susan Farrell (KNSD-TV, Channel 39), and they’ve been very nice, very polite and I understand they’re just doing their jobs,” Mendenhall said. “They never recorded me. They respected my desire for privacy.”

Are Geraldo Rivera and Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong fame) going to be the new owners of KNSD-TV (Channel 39)? The king of trash television talked about his plans to buy television stations with a group of investors, which includes Marin, for an article that ran in The Times on Sunday. Rivera talked in-depth about a trip he recently made on George Gillett’s private plane, talking business and relishing the pleasures of corporate schmoozing. Gillett, of course, owns Channel 39 and other stations, which he has been rumored to be looking to sell.

The highly praised restored version of “Gone With the Wind” makes its San Diego debut at the Ken Theater on Sunday for a weeklong run. Reaction to the film has been so strong throughout the country that Landmark Theaters is planning to move the film to the Park Theater for an indefinite run, beginning March 19. . . . The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art’s retrospective of Roman Polanski’s work continues on Wednesday with a 7:30 p.m. screening of “Repulsion,” the 1965 thriller starring Catherine Deneuve.

A local writer sent a copy of San Diego Magazine to relatives in Saudi Arabia. When it arrived, all the plastic surgery ads, bikini shots and anything remotely suggestive had been cut from the magazine by government censors, who obviously have not yet seen a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

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Stan Miller will be assuming anchor duties for Channel 8’s main 5 p.m. newscast in April. Greg Hurst will be moving to the 6:30 p.m. edition. Longtime anchor Allison Ross is generally believed to be on her way out when her contract ends in June, but news director Holtzman said no decision had been made about Ross’ future with the station.

KGTV (Channel 10) is planning a Barbara Walters-like interview show to air after the Oscar ceremony and a Walters show on March 29. Scheduled guests include Mayor Maureen O’Connor, Ernest Hahn and Steve Garvey, who committed to tape the show before his paternity suit troubles were aired. The Garv, ever Garv-like, honored his commitment and taped the interview last week along with his new wife, although he reportedly is refusing new requests for interviews.


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