The Los Angeles Times reports in the August 3 paper that "Los Angeles television newscaster Mirthala Salinas was suspended without pay for two months — but not dismissed — Thursday from KVEA-TV Channel 52 for covering Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while they were romantically involved, a relationship that journalism experts said damaged the station's credibility."
But wait, there's more. The Telemundo reporter (pictured at right with Villaraigosa*) apparently has a history of dating Southern California Democratic politicians:
Her affair with Villaraigosa was an open secret in KVEA's Burbank newsroom and in the mayor's office at City Hall. Salinas also had dated Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) when he was divorced — and before he remarried his wife — as well as former Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla, now a state senator.
Somehow I have a hard time believing a reporter sleeping around with a married conservative Republican politician would survive long as an open secret in any TV newsroom, nor, of course, should it.
But beyond any double standard issue is of course the highly unprofessional behavior of having a sexual relationship with someone you cover on a regular basis as a beat reporter. And on that note, the LA Times picked up the frustration of some of Salinas' co-workers, who spoke on background to the paper:
Telemundo network executives conducted the three-week internal review that culminated in Thursday's discipline. But several employees at the Burbank headquarters of KVEA and KNBC-TV Channel 4 criticized the network, saying it let Salinas off too easy.
"There is a violation of job integrity," one worker said as he pulled out of the Telemundo parking lot.
An NBC employee who works in technical operations predicted that the scandal would enhance Salinas' career.
"It will probably make her more successful, ultimately," he said. "It's just publicity for her career."
Another Telemundo worker contacted by phone was more cynical: "They were trying to save face, and this way they don't have to spend any money," said the worker, who declined to be named for fear of retaliation. "They are just waiting for people to leave on their own…. They don't like lawsuits, they don't like to go to court, and they don't like to spend money."
*Photo credit: Robert Durell/LA Times.