Veteran TV reporter sacked over anthrax prank

A veteran Des Moines TV reporter and anchor was fired last week and escorted out of the station after staging what company officials claimed was an anthrax hoax.

Steve Oswalt, an award-winning investigative reporter and station KCCI’s weekend anchor, had reportedly sprinkled face powder around the newsroom in front of coworkers. His attorney told Friday’s Des Moines Register that Oswalt was clearly joking.

“I don’t know how any reasonable person could believe that Steve had anthrax,” the attorney, George LaMarca, told the newspaper.

The station news director, Dave Busiek, declined to discuss the incident except to say that Oswalt was no longer an employee other station.

Mike James, editor of News Blues, a website where broadcast news employees post gripes about the business, commented that the ouster “concerns us on any number of levels — not the least of which is why a professional ‘news manager’ would intentionally hide important news and conspire with his employees (under threat of dismissal) to keep the news from the public. It stinks.”

James also pointed out that Busiek has been elected chairman of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (the same group that named Oswalt best investigative reporter in 1989 and 1990).