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Damn reporters: A clear pattern of getting it wrong when covering DC Fire & EMS.

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Read more DC Fire & EMS Department stories that reporters got wrong: here, here & here.

It was three-years-ago this month that I took a buy-out and ended my career as a TV reporter in Washington, DC. Looking at a series of stories this year, including the one above, I am starting to believe that local news coverage went into the dumper after I left. Apparently there isn’t a reporter who can get the story right on my old beat covering the DC Fire & EMS Department. I say this because every time I look around the chief or a spokesman for the department is telling a reporter their story is wrong. It’s a very clear pattern.

You may recall me writing about this topic back in February when Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and his spokesman issued three statements in just 24-hours showing us how three different stories by three different reporters were in error. What hacks these reporters must be. With a record like that, the press should be hiding their faces in shame instead of showing their mugs on your TV screen every night. Yesterday’s story involves one of the reporters from February, WJLA-TV/ABC 7’s Jay Korff.

Repeat offender Jay Korff.

When Korff got word from the National Park Service (NPS) that the DC Fire & EMS Department had told NPS it did not have the EMS staff or apparatus to deal with the large crowds at the annual July 4th festivities on The Mall, Korff actually believed them (those reporters sure are gullible). And then Korff started getting all reporter like and had the nerve to ask questions about his “scoop” (he was probably foaming at the mouth at the time).

According to Korff’s self-serving report, those questions he asked brought a very sudden change of heart from the DC Fire & EMS Department with Chief Ellerbe getting personally involved in the situation. But before you start believing that, I should remind you again this information comes from a reporter who Chief Ellerbe told us got it wrong back in February. And guess what? Chief Ellerbe’s spokesman Timothy Wilson says Korff got it wrong again. Wilson’s statement reads, “Any allegation that the Department will not be able to fulfill its commitment  and compromise public safety are speculative and without merit.”

See the pattern folks? It’s pretty damn clear.

Truth be told this pattern of poor reporting on the DC Fire & EMS Department goes back before the current administration. In former Chief Dennis Rubin’s book “D.C. Fire”, The Rube has a number of mentions of a local TV reporter who consistently got it wrong. Rubin describes the reporter as having a “reputation for being difficult for years” and that “he had been a volunteer firefighter for a few years, and then he worked as a fire dispatcher for one of the nearby Maryland suburbs”.

The good news is that former firefighter/dispatcher/reporter with this bad reputation is apparently no longer in the news business. I am sure if he was, Chief Ellerbe and his PIOs would be working overtime sending out even more corrections.

Order “D.C. Fire” to read more about reporters getting it wrong.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • ukfbbuff

    Gee Dave, its taken three reporters to replace you and they can’t seem to get the Chief’s stories straight either?

    Guess you’ll just have to limit yourself to here and helping the NFFF Make Video’s.

    Charleston’s Current, Post SSS Fire is Excellent!

    • dave statter


  • Really Disappointed

    Have you considered that LRB is a compulsive liar. Do you really think he would admit to this. I know the reporting is not up to par with what you are use to but you must consider, where there is smoke there is usually fire. The only pattern I see is that the media is consistently lenient on LRB. They report on a story and then fail to keep the pressure up. How many separate incidents of GROSS dereliction of duty must the public endure before LRB has to answer for his actions. Has you considered that the staffing and apparatus shortage are purposeful. I submit that he is doing this in order to get that monstrosity of a shift change 3-3 and 3 implemented. If you examine all of the facts carefully, you can come to only two conclusions. 1) LRB is an evil genius and has manufactured a crisis in order to get his ridiculously discriminatory plan implemented. OR. 2) He is the most incompetent, ignorant high profile city official to ever hold the title. I think either way the citizens and the men & women of the District of Columbia Fire Service deserve a hell of a lot better.

    • dave statter

      I don’t know. You know how those reporters are. And you have two fire chiefs, who are very different in style and agenda and both say the same thing about DC’s TV reporters. Must be true.

      • Brian

        And that would be hook, line, and sinker……

  • Ret Dep Chief

    Not a fan of the way the DC FD is run but is is reasonable to assume that large functions such as the fireworks on the mall could be covered by private EMS services or at least the cost to DC FD to provide coverage come from the Parks budget? Having lived in the area for 55 years I have seen and been part of some of the mall events. That said, if the DC FC says we can do this, then he better pull it off. Not a fan of mandatory OT, perhaps DC could ask if any members would like the OT and then fill the void with mandatory. Not sure if the Union Contact allows that but it is just a thought.

    • dave statter

      Why are you even discussing the specifics of this story Ret Dep Chief? Didn’t you read the statement from the PIO? It isn’t even a story.

    • Nostradamus

      To Ret Dep Chief-

      Up until recently (recently being when the current fire/ems chief allowed the vacancies in the Department to increase to the point that daily operations cannot be staffed adequately let alone providing supplemental staffing for a major event), the DCFD did provide coverage for major events out of the event organizer’s budget supplemented by private EMS units WITHOUT mandatory overtime. However, the Department is so understaffed right now that it resorts to MANDATORY overtime on a regular basis to staff day-to-day operations.

      Well, it must be because the City is suffering a budget crisis and this is trickling down to the fire department. Nope, the city has a budget surplus and the Department is fully funded. Never in my 20+ year career have there been hold overs more than a few hours even during major holidays, weather events, etc. But this past weekend alone (You remember, the one with the major-snowstorm-hurricane-earthquake? Oh, scratch that, just a regular early summer weekend with fairly mild weather) almost a dozen firefighters were held over 12 hours on Father’s Day as well as 3 of the 7 battalion chiefs. And 2 of those battalion chiefs were held over for a full 24 hours. That’s right, they went to work on their regualr shift at 0700 on Saturday morning and couldn’t go home until 0700 on Monday morning. Sorry about those Father’s Day plans, honey, got to get some overtime! But hold on! Battalion chiefs cannot work overtime and must be compensated in comp time (which due to leave restrictions they cannot use and the City will not pay them for) so those poor saps basically received nothing but thier regular pay for working 48 hours straight without notice. As a bonus, only 6 of the 7 battalion chiefs were in service Sunday night.

      Now, the fire/ems chief will tell everyone this is because the evil firefighters don’t come to work. Well, of the 7 battalion chiefs supposed to work Sunday, one was on assigned annual leave and another was on bereavement leave for a death in the family. Where were the other 5, you ask? Good question.

      -One was filling in for the Operations Deputy Chief who is filling in for the Assistan Chief of Operations who is on sick leave and may not come back.

      -One was filling in for the Special Operations Deputy Chief who is filling in for the Fleet Maintenance Deputy who was forced to retire a few months ago.

      -Another was filling in for the Logistics Deputy Chief whose spot has been left unfilled.

      That leaves 2 regular on-duty battalion fire chiefs. It sounds like someone is not managing his department well…

      I know that most of these details are lost on the layman and many with a fire service background as well. But Ret Dep Chief (and those like you) probably can see how really, really bad it is. My point in all this is to illustrate how mismanaged the Department is and has been for quite some time. This didn’t happen overnight. And please watch the news carefully in the next two months. The Department CANNOT maintain its current level of service with the massive number of vacant positions that have been allowed to accummulate coupled with the Overtime Limitation Act imposed and maintained by the City Council. In addition, the lack of adequate reserve apparatus will only continue to get worse as the summer goes on and heat becomes an issue. But the fire/ems chief has refused to hire and cannot hire quickly enough now. I won’t even get into the exodus of paramedics which has increased since the mandatory hold overs and will only get worse.

      The week surrounding July 4th has traditionally been a very busy time for the City. Forget about helping the NPS during the 4th, keeping all the fire companies and ems units in service will be a daunting task in and of itself. The fire/ems chief knows this. The City Council knows this (but I don’t think they fully understand it). It is a disaster waiting to happen and the chief and Council will be to blame (but it will be blamed on the firefighters). If I was a cynical sort, I would think someone was TRYING to cause a failure of the system.

      Sad. Very Sad.

    • Really Disappointed

      Overtime? There is no apparatus to ride! That is a fact.

    • Ron Stuart

      Because the city collects TIME AND A HALF from the feds for the employee who work overtime during this event but only pays the employees straight time! Wow Dave wouldnt that make a great story?


    Dave, I’ve thought while watching & reading some of LRB’s “finest” moments in front of cameras that it’s a shame that little boy from Baltimore isn’t asking questions anymore. Either him or anyone else who knows how to get background info and knows enough about the business to ask relevant follow up questions. Don’t reporters (other than sports reporters) who are assigned to a certain beat make any effort to learn the inner workings anymore?

    • dave statter

      Well apparently that little boy from Baltimore wasn’t much of a reporter either, according to the previous fire chief.

      • CHAOS

        Based on my one and only session of several hours contact with the former chief, I’m not sure how much time he had to properly evaluate reporters once he got done admiring himself.

  • Pipeman27

    Buckle up for the 4th ladies and gents, remember the New Year’s Eve debacle, this will be worse

  • A concerned taxpayer

    I say trade Bruce Johnson and Paul Wagner to Detroit for Charlie Ledruff and a pick to be named later.

  • Two cents

    Bring Charlie LeDuff down for a month or two.

  • http://statter911 Glad to be retired

    WOW is this not interesting, a few months ago someone posted almost begging Dave to get in the fray and provide the proper reporting and press coverage to expose this clown. However what is troubling is that the current city council is scared to death to pressure the chief for answer’s, they sit back and wait for Well’s to pounce and in doing so he may jeopardize his mayoral run thus enhancing the rest of the potential candidates. I am still amazed that other than Catania the entire ounce is spineless when the true issues come to the forefront, you will never see in particular the ladies of the group say a word until another member has placed themselves on the hot seat. The race issue cuts both ways here and I am truly amazed that the council will turn their heads to the reverse discrimination that has been an underlying issue, the people who have retired (GROSS AMOUNTS)certainly can offer something however they were most likely threatened in a manner which was well thought out and not witnessed by anybody else but themselves and LRB. The 4th Of July Event well it will not happen safely, NPS has a reduced budget, DC has no units available, Oh yeah LRB has never planned anything other than to dismantle the fire dept which he feels has wronged him his entire life. This certainly does count the time in Florida where he also had issues, no pattern here I would say he is well schooled in dirty politics and practices as he watched all the predecessors and learned how to better all their misdeeds. Just imagine if all those who he has touched would come forward, even those with keep quiet clause’s which are attached to their fiduciary settlements, wow would that city, citizens, council be in awe!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Bring on the 3-3-3 shift……….and all of our problems will be cured.


    • Anonymous

      I say Bring It On (3-3-3) and the Big Fat Raise that comes with it!!

      • Pipeman27

        We may get a raise but a huge increase in work hours also, making our hourly rate lower

  • Barney Miller

    This story was contrived! Ken Lyings has been stroking the Admin since day one. Lyings wants EAB Back after they were whittled down to nearly nothing. The admin, HR and the mayor are posturing to hire (a lot of) civilian medics (that can lateral if they want). Hence giving back Civilian EAB. So riddle me this: why would Lyings flip on the Admin “all of a sudden” by stating we don’t have the ability to provide coverage, staffing is low….I’ll tell you why… they are going to mandatory the whole #4 Plt or something similar and cancel MIPs for the month. This further promotes the admins position on 3 3 3. This is a manufactured crisis wherein the Nationwide shortage of medics should not have been a surprise to the DC FEMinator, so lets just not hire any FF/PM and act surprised while they leave in droves to go where their trade and talent will be respected, get better pay and easier retirement. I call it ALSthrax….kill all the good medics to replace them with civilians that can be more easily exploited. MUHAHHHAAAHA-

  • Pingback: Frederick Douglass takes his rightful place()

  • mark

    You do sarcasm so well, Dave.

    I love it.

    As for the story, when will the reporters get together and just hang this idiot out to dry?

    Sexual harassment
    Outright lying about the apparatus numbers
    Flat out incompetence

    Any one of these should be enough to get this idiot canned, put them all together and it almost seems criminal.

    • dave statter

      Who me? Sarcastic? Just the reaction I would expect from one of our veteran KICs. Look, if after four decades in broadcast news I can’t fake sincerity well, I should just hang it up.

  • Anonymous

    It takes 3 reporters to get the stories as “wrong” as Dave did all by himself :)

    • dave statter


  • The52nd

    Sorry. I’ve no sympathy for reporters, whether lied to, or lied about. Our dept fought a prolonged contract battle during which time the media was hand fed by the mayor, ignored us, ignored the facts, and reported absolute garbage.

    If the DC media (or even you) are looking for sympathy I suggest the dictionary. You’ll find sympathy somewhere between shit, and syphilis.

    That said, I empathize with my brothers in DC, and hope that some how their leadership gets what it has coming to it.

    • dave statter

      Yes. Those reporters are all scum. I believe that is in the dictionary before shit. At least in my version it is. That’s why I think I wrote this. Those fire chiefs always provide the correct version, don’t they?

    • mark

      And I’m sure your opinion is just as unbiased as the media’s was, right?

      One of the few reasons this country has survived this long is because there is a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press. Just like you have the right to spew your “unbiased” opinion of what the media “did” to you.

  • Dirk Diggler

    This place STINKS; everyone knows what is going to happen. Gray is DONE… & so is the Fire Chief and a few others. And I don’t mean Ronnie Few, take a look at the Washing Post Articles today, the Shadow Campaign Controversy, is moving its way right up the ladder. As they say, the wheels of justice move slowly. But the destination is pretty clear. This is why Gray has not announced for re-election (Duh) he is on the ropes, holding on to what little, if any credability he has left, and yes, I would not be surprised if the FEMS chief, one way or another, is not caught up in it also. I would truly, like to think the good old days of, DC Politics are coming to an interesting end… I do think the New Blood to the CITY; will not stand for this much longer. It will happen, but how many citizens, workers and visitors need to suffer while it plays out… Well, only time will tell, the ship has SUNK and people are starting to look for life rafts. Coming to a theater near you this summer. (Washington DC Politics in Shambles) this film has not been rated .There is blood in the streets of DC and it will be very interesting at the top of the heap of shit, we call FEMS management. Keep your eyes out, because some serious cut throat politics is on the way, just above BFC…

    • Anonymous

      We shall see!!!! Don’t be SUPRISED!!!!

  • Ron Stuart