The venture was launched after Gephardt was approached about doing commercials. "I decided, well, OK, but I'm not going to sell something that I don't believe in," he said. "I don't want to do a commercial where I'm simply reading a script. That didn't seem right."
He and his staff will sell their services to local companies, and Gephardt will appear in commercials, validating the businesses he has investigated.If he were still a journalist, taking money from a business would be a breach of ethics. But Gephardt's KUTV contract expired on Dec. 31.
What complicates the ethical line is that Matt Gephardt succeeded his father as KUTV's consumer reporter and continues the popular "Get Gephardt" feature.
Bill Gephardt's website has no tie to Channel 2, station officials say. "That's a completely separate entity," said KUTV news director Jennifer Dahl. "He went off, he retired, and he started his own business."
That shared Gephardt name could make it a little uncomfortable for Matt. At least among those who keep track of journalistic ethics.
But Al Tompkins, the senior faculty member for broadcast and online at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, raised no ethical objections to Bill Gephardt's venture.
"People do it all the time," Tompkins said. "Even Walter Cronkite and Hugh Downs did commercial work after they retired. If he's cut his ties to the station, he can do whatever he likes. There's no conflict there."
He did say, however, that Gephardt should make it clear on his website that he's no longer affiliated with KUTV. "I think he owes that to his former station and to the public," Tompkins said. "It should be as clear as possible."
Gephardt said that will be clear on his website, which is scheduled to launch on April 1.
The website currently features just a "coming soon" page with a list of five "approved" businesses.
And Gephardt promises companies will be subject to a "tough investigation" before they're added to GephardtApproved.com.
"I'm going to maintain this ethic all the way along," Bill Gephardt said.