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TV station responds to criticism about releasing only a portion of Tyreek Hill recording

Pete Grathoff, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Football

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- KCTV5 news director Casey Clark went on air Wednesday night and defended the station's decision not to run the entire 11-minute conversation between Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill and his fiancee Crystal Espinal that surfaced in April.

After receiving the audio recording, the station released portions of the conversation between the couple at the Dubai airport. Hill and Espinal can be heard talking about the child-abuse allegations regarding their 3-year-old son that led to a criminal investigation.

Reporter Angie Ricono said at the time "we released the newsworthy portions." But when KCSP (610 Sports) aired the full audio this week, Hill could be heard not only denying that he injured the couple's son, but also saying he never hit Espinal in a 2014 incident to which Hill pleaded guilty to domestic abuse by strangulation while they were both at Oklahoma State.

That omission led to criticism locally, including in The Kansas City Star, and nationally.

"We debated it a lot," Clark said in a question-and-answer session on the station's "Locker Room Show." "I would say the biggest thing is when you listen to it in its totality, there's a lot of talking about their parenting style and what happened in that tumultuous threesome, and then they go off and talk about what happened in 2014.

"Our feeling on it was that 2014 had been asked and answered. He pleaded guilty and he up to this point had never publicly claimed anything having to do with him being falsely accused, wrongly prosecuted. He pleaded guilty. The fact that they went off on a tangent and it sounds like a marital argument, it didn't have relevance to, and I understand some people disagree with us, but we make editorial calls every day and that was an editorial call."

Clark was asked by KCTV's Dani Welniak why the station didn't just release the entire recording.

"Maybe it's a generational thing for me, but first and foremost I'm not a digital-first guy. I've been doing this for 30 years and I think TV first," he said. "And when you take anything raw and post it online, there are unintended consequences and we tried to think through a bunch of those.

"One of the first ones that really bothered me was we didn't know if our source could be identified by the audio if we posted it in its entirety. The audio that we have has a very distinct beginning and a very distinct end and if we posted it in its entirety, Crystal probably would know who was the person who shared it with us."

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Clark said he also hesitated to release a portion of the recording where Hill said he didn't want to have children.

"I, as a dad, looked at that and said I would hate to have something like that live in perpetuity on the Internet," Clark said. "I couldn't live with myself if we had taken a chunk of something like that and given life forever. I just felt like it was best for us if we took the parts that were relevant, put them on the news -- we're not a blog, we're not 24-hour talk radio. We are journalists; we make editorial calls every day. We decided what to keep and what not to keep all the time and that's where we drew the line."

Clark also defended Rincon, "who is getting lit up online," and wished the station had been more transparent.

"Ultimately, it was my call," Clark said.

(c)2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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