Russ Hour Racist cabbies! Killer fridges! Rats! Meet Russ Ptacek, D.C.’s most excitable local newsman.

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

The first time I meet up with Russ Ptacek, he says I’m exactly what he’s looking for. “I can’t believe how white you are,” he tells me. “This is perfect.”

On this early evening a few days before President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, I’m the perfect control subject in Ptacek’s latest on-camera experiment for WUSA9, Washington’s CBS affiliate. Tonight, Ptacek wants to see if District cab drivers are more likely to pick up white passengers than black ones. He’s done similar tests during the daytime, rushing into the streets to confront successfully stung cabbies, and tonight is one of a series he’s filming after sunset. The working theory is that the darkness will stoke cabbies’ prejudices—and make for some great TV.

With a wallet full of $5 bills provided by WUSA, I prepare to hail cabs in front of the National Gallery of Art. Ptacek, 49, waits across the street with a camera and a smartphone equipped with a stopwatch app, ready to time how long it takes me to successfully flag down a ride. A block away, Ptacek’s producer, cameraman, and two would-be passengers who are black are running the same test. Ptacek waves his hat at me, and the sting is on.

Eventually, several hours of taxi-baiting will be whittled down into a few seconds of footage in Ptacek’s series on racist cab drivers, airing just in time for February sweeps. While the operation wouldn’t pass muster in a peer-reviewed journal, Ptacek at least has the right hunch: It never took me more than six minutes to catch a cab in at least 10 tries, while my black counterparts had to wait as long as 15 minutes.

On another night, Ptacek recruits a group of young black men and women who are walking in Georgetown. When a driver tells one of them to get out of his cab, Ptacek and his camera suddenly pop up by the passenger window. “You’re going to leave this kid here?” Ptacek says, pointing his finger at the driver. “Ugh!”

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The taxicab series doubles as a promo for WUSA’s new smartphone app, which allows passengers to record their drivers and send evidence of any lawbreaking to Ptacek. The app’s called WUSA9 iAlert, but Ptacek has his own name for it: Ptacek in Your Pocket. “I think of a lot of things people don’t think of,” Ptacek says of his idea to enable citizen reporting via iPhone. “Which drives them crazy.”

Washingtonians are getting Ptacek in their pockets, and they should expect to see more and more of him on their TVs. Since he was hired in February 2012 to build an investigative team for WUSA, Ptacek has begun to make a name for himself by being outraged by the kind of humdrum injustices that other reporters might find too obvious to tackle, like racist cabbies and dirty takeout storefronts.

Ptacek is mad about the state of things in D.C., and he thinks you should be too.


Ptacek may fume on television, but off the air, his wrath has a surprising target: Anderson Cooper.

Cooper and Ptacek have a lot in common. They’re both TV reporters. Both are gay, both seem to have a thing for form-fitting black shirts, and both have a full head of white hair. But for Ptacek, similarity has bred contempt—or at least minor frustration and a slightly winking one-sided feud. Ptacek, after all, hears all the time how much he looks Cooper. He shudders to imagine how many times the opposite has happened to the son of Gloria Vanderbilt.

The Cooper issue got worse last year, when a young fan of the CNN anchor on the Metro asked Ptacek to pose for a photo. The admirer tweeted the picture and—to Ptacek’s consternation—it eventually landed in a segment of Cooper’s daytime talk show devoted to the host’s lookalikes. They’ve never met, but for Ptacek, Cooper is the big brother he’s never wanted.

Russ Ptacek’s Greatest Hits

July 2008

Ptacek confronts a wheelchair-bound man accused of not paying his employees. The man decides to ram Ptacek’s cameraman with the wheelchair.

Feb. 2013

A talking fridge promotes Ptacek’s segment on dangerous refrigerators, inspired by one of Ptacek’s own encounters with a cooler. “I can make you sick, and you’ll never suspect it was me,” the fridge promises.

Dec. 2012

Ptacek confronts a cab driver who refused to pick up a black passenger.

July 2011

Ptacek repeatedly tries and fails to interview a Kansas official accused of extorting women online.

But Cooper’s long shadow hasn’t stopped Ptacek from vying to be the second most famous silver fox on TV news. Ptacek has honed his broadcast style since the 1980s, when he dropped out of the University of Kansas to report for a Topeka TV station. After running a news service out of Lawrence, Kan., throughout the 1990s, Ptacek sold his business in 2001, went back to college to finish his degree, and in 2006 went to work at a Kansas City station as an investigative reporter. That’s where he perfected what I like to think of as the Ptacek Formula.

Not every Ptacek story follows the formula: His more straightforward work includes an investigation of a General Services Administration office complex where hundreds of people were made ill or killed by toxins.

The Ptacek Formula is something different: First, Ptracek will find a mundane-sounding news story—one involving neighborhood animal attacks, for example—and head to the scene with a cameraman who’s not afraid to get a little bruised. Then, in a high-dramatic newsman cadence in which he seems to indiscriminately emphasize every other word, Ptacek confronts wrongdoers. Ideally, a story following the Ptacek Formula exposes Ptacek to an unspecified level of danger.

Take the case of the vicious dog in Kansas, prominently featured in Ptacek’s demo reel. Ptacek is shown talking through a door to the dog’s owner. A gun cocks from inside the house, and a quick cut later, Ptacek and his cameraman are crouching behind a car. No gunshots are heard.

Ptacek is also proud of the time he confronted a manager accused of stiffing his employees. In the segment, from Ptacek’s time in Kansas City, the news crew finds the electric wheelchair-bound manager, and Ptacek asks him about the missing wages. When Ptacek’s cameraman won’t turn off his device, the manager surges forward and rams the cameraman’s knee. “You have just assaulted this man!” Ptacek says, getting in between the wheelchair and the camera. The segment concludes with Ptacek saying the cameraman declined to press charges.

Ptacek is willing to put his own body on the line, too, which he proved when he investigated 28-year-old William Norris, an auditor for Clay County in Kansas. Norris, already in trouble for lying about his qualifications, had also allegedly dabbled in blackmailing women with nude photos of themselves on the picture-sharing site Photobucket. The auditor dodged Ptacek for weeks, forcing the reporter to park a news van in front of his car and eventually run after Norris as he left his house. “I just have a few questions for you!” Ptacek yells, jogging after the car. Norris eventually resigned.

“He would pick out stuff that other news media wouldn’t pick up,” says Tony Botello, who writes a lively media and politics blog called Tony’s Kansas City. Ptacek shook up the cozy relationship between Kansas City’s political establishment and its media, according to Botello, leading the blogger to declare him a “legend” and “the very best in the biz.” When Ptacek announced he was leaving for Washington in February 2012, Botello illustrated an article about the news with a picture of a mushroom cloud.

So far, Ptacek hasn’t made as big an impact in Washington. He’s continued his Kansas investigation of the GSA but hasn’t nabbed that many serious scoops in his year in D.C. But his two main focuses in Washington fit perfectly with his talent for drama: restaurant health inspections and the taxi industry.

Ptacek says his taxi stings were inspired by a staffer for Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation. The original idea was for WUSA to conduct the investigation in conjunction with Cheh’s office, but the staffer dawdled, according to Ptacek. When it looked like WRC, Washington’s NBC affiliate and the city’s top-rated news program, was in talks with Cheh’s office, Ptacek rushed to get it done first.

“We beat Channel 4, we beat Mary Cheh,” Ptacek says.

Taxi-cab stings, of course, aren’t new. In 1997, two Washington Post reporters, one black and one white, tried a similar test. Still, Ptacek’s story paid off. WUSA aired the racism sting first, and Ptacek was able to crack down on yet another minor villain. After a cab driver locked his doors when a black passenger asked to be taken to Southeast, only to pick up a white passenger who wanted to go to the same destination, Ptacek strolled into the middle of the street and stuck his mic through the passenger window. “Hi, so I’m curious,” Ptacek says. “Why wouldn’t you pick up the black guy?” The cab driver, who is black, says he didn’t notice either passenger’s race.

The food-service stings can be even juicier. Using Department of Health inspection records, Ptacek hits several restaurants and grocery stores a week to confront managers about violations. In these segments, Ptacek is notably class-blind, shaming both pricey restaurants that have been shut down for their incongruously unhygienic conditions as well as divier shops where the filth is less surprising. In one memorable segment, he shames the barely comprehending manager of a dingy takeout for having an empty bottle of liquor on the counter. He tweets the worst offenders along the way.

For restaurant stories, Ptacek tones down his shtick, since most of the employees aren’t as nefarious as some of his other targets. Instead of bursting into an establishment with a cameraman, now he enters alone. “I want to go into these places unannounced without being a dick,” Ptacek says.

The relatively toned-down Ptacek hasn’t made restaurant employees any more eager to talk, of course. In one clip, Ptacek chases the manager of an Adams Morgan Subway down 18th Street NW and into a neighboring bar, which refuses to let the camera in.

Ptacek’s dominance of the health-inspection beat has paid one major dividend so far. In January, when anonymous neighborhood blogger Titan of Trinidad broke the story that Councilmember Vincent Orange intervened in a health inspection that eventually shut down a wholesale produce store owned by a campaign donor, Ptacek already had footage of the store’s sorry condition. (Ptacek says he was working on Orange’s connection to the store weeks before Titan of Trinidad published his report). The D.C. Board of Ethics has launched an inquiry into Orange’s role in the inspection.

Still, racist cabbies and health-code violations are a far cry from discovering poison in a federal building. “I don’t know how terribly relevant it is,” says Dave Hughes, who runs the Washington media website DCRTV. “It’s kind of more like fun stuff, you know, he walks in the restaurant and finds the rat feces.”

Ptacek claims this is all part of his plan. The prestigious investigations, the kind that require dozens of interviews and months fighting for Freedom of Information Act requests, run on unpredictable timetables, he says. He needs to file restaurant investigations regularly while he works on longer stories. A report about, say, rats at Georgetown’s tony Dean & DeLuca will inspire viewers to send in tips about more serious corruption, Ptacek says.

It sounds like a longshot, but Ptacek’s mix of low- and high-stakes investigations worked in Kansas City, at least enough to get him a gig in the larger Washington market.

“I have similar aspirations to take over this town,” Ptacek says.


Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

In order for Ptacek to fulfill his ambitions, he’ll have to win over a middle-aged viewer named Sally. Unfortunately, Sally isn’t a real person.

Sally represents the ideal viewer of WUSA. Life-sized cardboard cutouts of Sally decorate the station’s cavernous Tenleytown newsroom. A fact sheet at the station’s entrance contains detailed demographic and market research data about Sally, who is alternatively black and white, and in her 40s. White Sally, for example, is worried about national security, while Black Sally is more focused on the economy. A sign in the newsroom urges employees to “speak to Sally.”

WUSA is going to need a lot of Sallys to compete with Washington’s current ratings king, WRC. But Hughes says that WRC’s long-tenured talent line-up, including anchors Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler, could simply be too well-liked to beat.

Not that WUSA isn’t trying. When I visited the studio in January, the station had just redesigned its local news set and logo with a more dynamic red and blue motif. In April ratings provided by DCRTV, WUSA came in second to WRC for early morning broadcasts, but the station came in fourth behind all other local newscasts for its 5 p.m, 6 p.m., and 11 p.m. shows.

The station topped the ratings pile in the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to Hughes, but hasn’t seen that success since. “It seems like they’ve also been an also-ran for many years now,” says Hughes.

The station hired Ptacek as part of an investigative reporting arms race, which started when WRC recruited investigative reporter Tisha Thompson from Fox affiliate WTTG, according to TVNewsCheck, a TV industry site. Soon after that, WUSA hired Ptacek to launch what he calls “the ultimate investigative unit.”

WUSA brass publicly expects that the investigations will lead to ratings. “That’s what people in the community want and that’s what’s going to keep them watching,” Fred D’Ambrosi, the station’s news director, told TVNewsCheck.

Ptacek’s investigations aren’t unique in Washington’s TV news operations. Hughes compares Ptacek’s style to an earlier WUSA reporter, Mike Buchanan, who was ousted from the morning anchor spot in 2003 following low ratings. Among Ptacek’s contemporaries, WTTG’s Paul Wagner brings Ptacek-esque incredulousness to his public safety reporting, while WUSA’s Andrea McCarren made headlines last year with stories on underage drinking.

Ptacek hopes his upcoming investigations will raise the stakes even more. “We are working on stuff right now,” he says, “that I anticipate will save lives.”


Gravity of subject matter, of course, is only one part of the Ptacek Formula. Another component just might be irony.

Unlike his peers, Ptacek seems to both embrace and wink at the archetype of the self-serious, suavely dramatic TV newsman. He does investigations but is conscious of the comedy of being rammed by a motorized wheelchair. In April, he tells me that Ptacek in Your Pocket hasn’t notched as many downloads as he had hoped. He’s returning to the air with a new series about taxi cab discrimination—this time, it’s about handicapped passengers—and he’s upping the rhetoric, too. “My big goal is that people have this kind of magic saber in their pocket to defeat taxi racism,” he says.

Still, Ptacek’s deep capacity for outrage is real—and that’s what’s made him a uniquely compelling character in Washington’s television landscape.

It’s certainly not an affectation. When Ptacek he was a junior in high school, his family moved from the Midwest to Fairfax County. (His mother worked for a U.S. senator.) While researching school, one white Fairfax County principal pulled Ptacek and his mother aside and promised that the student body “looks like us.” Ptacek’s mother left convinced that was one school her son would not attend, he says. “In 1981!” Ptacek says. “In Northern Virginia!”

Ptacek had a more personal brush with bigotry when he returned to Kansas. Working as a reporter in Lawrence, he encountered Fred Phelps, the then-obscure patriarch of the town’s anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. In 1991, Ptacek aired a story on the church’s use of children in its protests during a freezing Kansas winter—what Ptacek called “these itty-bitty picketers in these outrageous weather conditions.”

Not long after the story ran, one of Phelps’ daughters called Ptacek to tell him to report a positive story on her father—or else. When Ptacek refused, the church, still years away from its incendiary protests of soldiers’ funerals, launched a fax-machine campaign. One day, Ptacek came in to his newsroom to find his co-workers, along with the station’s general manager and news director, gathered around a piece of paper that said “Russ Ptacek’s a fag.”

Ptacek says he felt like he was in middle school again. “Some big bully was coming up and accusing me of being a fag,” Ptacek says. Ptacek shot back at Phelps by running for Lawrence City Council on an anti-Phelps platform. He lost to a popular incumbent, but he says the campaign helped him work out his “venom” toward Phelps.

Living in Dupont Circle, Ptacek says he’s found a more welcoming environment for gay people. Still, his work at WUSA has kept him too busy to date. “My mother hopes,” he says, asked if he’s seeing anyone.

His ironic touch and eye for the slightly amiss is evident as he shows me around the WUSA studio. We stop by the set of PBS’ The McClaughlin Group, which is filmed at the station. One of the teal armrests has turned dark with use.

Ptacek runs his fingers over the greasy armrest, wondering aloud which pundit’s oily fingers are responsible.


Around 10 p.m., the taxi sting is over for me, but Ptacek and his crew are just taking a break before they head back out in search of discriminatory cabbies. As we lug equipment past the Federal Trade Commission Library on Constitution Avenue, Ptacek’s health-inspection instincts go off. There’s a dull brown mark where two marble walls near the library meet. That’s how you can tell rats are nearby, Ptacek says. As they squeeze into cracks, he says, their fur leaves grease stains behind.

On the way back to WUSA’s studio, Ptacek is excited to have the footage I helped him get. “I’m so fucking glad you froze your ass off,” he says.

Our Readers Say

Ptacek's reports are entertaining and different from the usual boring crap the other stations generally put on TV.
WUSA is taking chances, which is what you do when you're in the cellar. They seem to be the only station in town willing to break the mold. They also have Andrea McCarren, who's broken a number of stories in her time.
Channel 4 is just boring. Jim Vance seems not to care all that much and as a former boss once said, "he phones it in."
I don't even know who's on Channel 7, and Fox is just tabloid garbage.
I sincerely wish WUSA luck. Maybe the only station where some real thought is happening.
I remember watching the news from Kansas City the day Russ did his first report. And I remember saying that he was, in my mind at least, the best reporter I had ever seen and heard. He was doing his job well, and was interesting to watch. He showed differences in his voice during the report, and actually had intelligence in his words. I miss him and his reporting and all the hard work he did in Kansas City. I hope the viewers in the DC area appreciate him for what he is---an intelligent an who really likes his job, and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Continue the way you are, Russ. Four thumbs up.
Sorry Russ had to leave Kansas City, his crowning glory(Bannister Federal Weapons Complex COVER UP)is still not completely revealed. No one here has the gutts to continue the coverage, many are still suffering and dying, FLASH BACKS of Agent Orange and goverment DENIALS!
When Ptacek was in Topeka he had not a clue as far as boundries. He was covering the US District Court, for WIBW-Channel 13, in connection with a high-profile bank robbery in Lawrence. I represented the accused. I walked out of a hearing in the case, and he was in the hallway demanding to know the specific details of attorney-client communications.

In any event, like most reporters, he's a liar. The tale regarding Fred Phelps, Sr., is mostly fiction. The only correct information is that he was a rabid sodomite activist from rabid sodomite activist central: Lawrence, Kansas. He was a public figure; and 1Ti 5:20 was/is applicable: "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." And, he testifies truthfully to the good Gospel preaching Westboro Baptist Church did via facsimiles in the early 1990s. Now you can find more good preaching here: @WBCSays. Mt 24:35 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." He imagines, as many of you fooish people do, that somehow God will change and wink at your filthy sins. He won't. Our job is to remind you of that reality. Good day.
"Rabid sodomite activist central"...that's no way to speak about your congregation, Mr. Phelps.
Russ Ptacek reminds me of Carl Monday, another in-your-face investigative TV reporter from Cleveland: http://www.19actionnews.com/category/106319/carl-monday-investigations
This guy is the best reason NOT to watch WUSA 9.
I enjoy this guy's news reports and especially the one on cab drivers refusing to pick up Negros, Coloreds, blacks, or African Americans. It's 2013 and this foolishness is still happening. It must be nice to be born white and not have to deal with things type of situations in life.
On the story: Russ was a great addition to the media in KC, and I'm sure DC will find the same! He definitely brought attention to topics that where either taboo or were considered too minor by others, and as a result brought some great coverage to things left too long in the dark. Don't forget, too, that besides being a passionate reporter, he could be a very compassionate reporter. The many families he worked with on the GSA story definitely appreciated him, what he did, and how he handled what was for them an extremely personal and tragic situation.

On one of the comments above:
What Mr. Phelps above fails to mention, as does (I'm assuming) his father, is that they are extremely guilty of ignoring whichever passages of the Old and New Testament are inconvenient to their theology of hatred and abuse (and their glee at hurting others), and of taking other passages completely out of context to pretend that the Bible is in any way indicative of God hating his own creations. Mr. Phelps also fails to explain how a campaign of causing pain to others, including grieving family members, is in any way conducive to the teachings of Christ. And rather than loving their enemies and praying for those they feel are abusing them - as Christ admonished - the Phelps family's favorite MO is to make personal attacks and try to sue. Of course, when lawsuits have been leveled against them, they again conveniently forget the portions of the New Testament that admonish them to give whatever is asked without having to go through the full legal process.

I still remember watching as the Phelps clan was escorted off campus during one of their protests in the mid-1990's after Fred Phelps took a swing at a student (himself the child of a minister) who very calmly stood there and quoted John 3:16 (though it might be good for the Phelps family to re-examine both John 3:16 and 17).

Let's just say that there is nothing about the public face of the WBC that is anything Christ-like, and Mr. Phelps' use of the word "gospel" above is such a falsehood and misrepresentation that I'm surprised he did not smell the ozone and sulfur as he typed it. His self-congratulatory hatred and disdain for others is a shameful examples of the hypocrisy that Christ challenged and condemned in the Pharisees.
This brings to mind a conversation between two Washington Post editors about Bob Woodward in the "All the President's Men" film:

"What's he written about so far, rat sh-- in restaurants?"
"He got a few of 'em closed, didn't he?"
Sorry to quibble, but Ptacek is an oddly spelled name, and having it appear over one hundred times in the article without a parenthetical phonetic pronunciation (pronounced "TAH-shek? tuh-CHICK? PAY-check?") makes it very annoying to read the name so many times without knowing how the word should sound in your head. It looks like the name of a mythical Polish Pharoah.

Aside from that, not much else going on here except a guy trying to take the 2013 metro TV media market by storm with a 1990s approach that Geraldo already championed a much amplified version of before people got bored with that YEARS AGO.
Great story, Will. Go get 'em, Russ!
The one of the sleazy auditor in Kansas was LOL funny, especially the fan pulling up in front of his house for surveillance. What a scumbag.
I was surprised to read that WUSA is last in ratings. I've lived in Maryland for 10 years and this is the only station I watch for my news. In my opinion, the others can't compare. I wish I could help you raise your ratings. Hiring someone like Russ should help. I love his stories! I can't wait until he gets down and dirty with some feds! LOL!
Quite lying RH: you don't read he Bible. If you did, you would read about hell which is an eternal manifestation of God's wrath towards the wicked. Does hell sound like love to you, Mr. Sodomite? You would also read the countless times that God is described as hating his creation. Proverbs 16:4 "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." This reality is echoed in the New Testament: Revelation 4:11: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

See if you can follow this perfidious RH: King David described God's hatred like this: Psalm 5:5 "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity." And David's "greater Son," the Lord Jesus Christ described the end of that hatred: Luke 13:27 "But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me [into hell fire], all ye workers of iniquity." Does that sound like love to you Mr. Sodomite (a/k/a worker of iniquity; i.e., your life's work/your industry is to do iniquity, to wit: sin with all of your corpuscles. This includes especially your lying, hard speeches against God, His word and His people. For example, Mr. Ptacek. Hundreds of children gather on snowy days in Topeka, Kansas, at Quinton Heights hill. Now where was your camera and your snarky reporting about those poor children out in the cold, wet snow. Our children at least weren't rolling around making snow angels (OK, once they did and then drew the angel with a picket sign in the snow. ;))

You lying hypocrites.
Another example of your lying is from JH above. Never escorted off the campus; never took a swing at any fool misapplying John 3:16; etc. (count them off, one by one, and they're lies (speaking of smelling the brimestone), and especially the lie about suing people. Now if you believe that, fine; whatever it takes for you to keep your violent hands off of our peaceful protestors/preachers.

315 M mericans/7+ B worldings misapply John 3:16. We can't afford to get lathered to shave every individual jackass amongst you that mangles that verse.. Read the verses before and after, which define an entire world that are "condemned already" because of their unbelief. Did Christ die for that sin, too, for the entire creation of man? And quit being so intellectually dishonest: any serious study of the word "world" in the Bible reveals that it never means every individual from Adam to the last man born. If Christ died for the sins of each and every individual, then there is no sin to pay for; as Augustus Toplady said: "Payment God cannot twice demand; first at my bleeding Surety's hand, and then again at mine."

The world of John 3:16 is the world of believers. Period. He didn't die for unbelievers. And, by the way, God turned the believers hearts to become believers contrary to their own natural, depraved state. So, all the glory belongs to God.

You that have no interest in repentance, but love your filthy sins to death, cannot engage in an honest debate on the merits; so you're reduced, like Sodomite Ptacek, to lying and ad hominem attacks.

Our campaign is to tell you the truth from the Bible as ambassadors of Christ are required to do, and you think it's hell; that's between you and your creator. He's not going to reconcile Himself to you; you will be required to reconcile yourself to Him. And, for those who are given grace to believe His revealed word, along with those precious gifts of repentance and reconciliation, you will love our preaching. The rest of you can (and will) go to Hell.
"so you're reduced, like Sodomite Ptacek, to lying and ad hominem attacks."

LOL, irony.
Hi, Russ,

I think we exchanged notes once on a controversial issue here in Tucson. Keep up the good investigative reporting (both the light and serious types.)
as for me, once a Ptacek, always a Ptacek.

Cheers,
Gloria
Hi Russ:

I remember you when you and your mother lived in Burke VA. My wife and I live in Burke and my parents still live there same address after 35 years. My cousin and his wife who live in Nashua NH gave me a link about your report on smart phones.

Keep up the good work.

Mike Gropman
I'm just curious as to how Mr. Ptacek chooses his subjects for investigation. His "dirty food place" coverage always seems to target immigrant-owned businesses with employees and/or owners who are often challenged by communicating in English, and who therefore may struggle to make their case when suddenly confronted with his cameras and aggressive manner.

I'm under the impression that Mr. Ptacek uses district and county records to see which places violated the regulations but I'm always hoping to see a Caucasian/American/DC Native-owned business. Always seeing immigrants seems rather strange.

More importantly, solely relying on the administrative records has the great potential risk of duplicating discriminatory profiling, if any, that may already exist at the health inspection/administration level.

I'm inclined to believe that ALL the Caucasians and D.C.-natives comply with the law, but like with police racial profiling, if we always target minorities we only arrest minorities who violated the law. That does not mean that the others do not violate the law, it only means we do not know because they are subject to less scrutiny.

On Thursday, May 23rd, 2013. I was surprised by the difference in Mr. Ptacek's treatment of a McDonald's restaurant, I did not see him speaking to any employee or manager, no images of the kitchen or the areas inside (except a shot of some floor area.) All we saw was a vague corporate written statement from McDonald's. Compare that to the Latino or Asian immigrants who get subjected to instant interrogation and wish they had the chance to think of an eloquent and nicely thought-out written statement.

Similar to the McDonald's episode where Ptacek is not able to access the McDonald's kitchen, on Thursday August 22, 2013, he could not get anywhere close to the Chipotle restaurant (let alone the kitchen) and was filming far away in the parking lot. All we saw was a written statement from the management, similar to McDonald's statement. Compare that to the treatment the immigrant business owners get.

This appears to be just another example of preferential treatment given to corporations while the little guy gets his feet held to the fire.

I welcome a constructive discussion about how our media intentionally or unintentionally displays bias in its choice of subjects.
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