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Kirby: News anchor Shauna Lake's DUI arrest raises question for public: Have we no shame?

Published May 15, 2017 8:21 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

KUTV news anchor Shauna Lake is my friend and one of the most genuine and considerate people I know. So it broke my heart when she was arrested for suspicion of DUI early Wednesday morning.

I first heard the news when another friend, KUTV anchor Mark Koelbel, tearfully announced it on the station's 10 o'clock newscast. Mark was upset because he knows what this means for his friend and co-anchor.

Shauna's high profile is what makes this news. Dozens of people in Utah were probably arrested for alcohol-related offenses Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Shauna is the only one to make headlines.

At the same time I hurt for Shauna, I also recognize the need to enforce impaired driving laws. Having spent years cleaning up the carnage of the "just two beers" crowd, I don't have a lot of tolerance for drunken driving.

But this isn't about our DUI laws. I'm far more concerned with the level of glee some %*@&!s express over the shame of a friend.

Public humiliation is one of the hazards of being well-known. When you screw up, it's news. And there are plenty of trolls eager to feed on your grief, including the media.

When the news about Shauna broke, there was a degree of regret and concern over what happened. But it was still reported.

The Salt Lake Tribune, a content partner with KUTV, debated whether to cover it, and in the end wrote a five-paragraph story.

KUTV's competitor KSL.com pulled out all the stops.* In addition to a longer story reeking of "gotcha," it also ran the booking mug shot of a disheveled and frightened woman.

The fairness of this play can be argued. On the one hand, a news organization feels an obligation to report the story, but would it feel the same way if it were one of its own?

Would an LDS Church-owned media company be just as thorough in its reporting if the person in trouble were a Mormon general authority? I got my own ideas about that, but I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself.

Besides, I'm far more concerned with Shauna's feelings about herself, and my own feelings if it were to happen to me. I'm not as well-known as Shauna, but I'm infinitely more likely to become a news item.

A few years ago, I narrowly avoided just such a situation. Actually, it was Sonny who saved me. He latched onto me during a "conversation" I tried to have with a drunk insulting a female convenience store clerk in southern Utah.

Me: "Let go. It'll just take a sec."

Him: "If it comes to that, I'll do it. You need to stay employed."

But that happened some time ago. What have I done recently that would bring shame?

Oh, I know. A few months back, I went to church thoroughly baked on some leftover weed I brought back from Colorado. It was a medicinal gummy that I found in the closet in my pack. I didn't want it to go to waste.

I could have been arrested for that. If so, I would have become a news item. "Tribune Columnist Arrested for Drug Possession." I might have been a little embarrassed, but I'd still be arguing that "high" church is way better than low church.

In the end, what happened isn't so much about overconsumption of a drug by a public figure, but rather whether our own drug of choice is the high we get reveling in the tragedy and pain of others.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Note • This story has been corrected to say that KSL.com ran a story, with a mug shot, of KUTV news anchor Shauna Lake.






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