If you were watching Hostages or The Blacklist on Monday night in the 10 o’clock hour, then you missed Fox 29’s investigation into sportscaster (and former Fox 29 employee) Don Tollefson, who is under scrutiny for alleged financial misdeeds relating to “charities” to which he is attached. But you didn’t exactly miss much.
I’m normally a big fan of Jeff Cole, the Fox 29 reporter who led the charge into the Tollefson story. Every town needs a version of Cole, a guy who will go undercover to find city employees sleeping on the job and who will tell you the story as if national security were at stake. But he dropped the ball when it came time to investigate his former colleague. Instead of a charge into the story, it was more like a trot around it.
The Tollefson tale has been brewing in the press for nearly two weeks, but all Cole could come up with were rehashed accounts and reports from days ago.
“Fox 29 has learned” that Pennsylvania Department of State’s Charities Bureau is investigating, he told viewers on Monday night, as if he had some inside source in Harrisburg leaking him top secret information. But it’s much more likely that “Fox 29 learned” that from competitor NBC 10’s report five days prior. The jilted “Allentown man” Cole spoke with? The same guy we told you about on Friday. “And word now of a police probe”? There’s nothing “now” about that news. Far from it.
And the rest of the six-minute-plus report is much the same, as you can see in the above video. There was nothing investigatory about it. From what I can tell, there wasn’t a single meaningful revelation. I emailed Cole, who forwarded my request to Fox publicist Cindy Goldstein, who has yet to respond to my questions.
Was this the case of an overworked reporter not being able to get the job done? We’ve all been there. And maybe that’s what happened. But if you’re going to make a former colleague the subject of an investigation, then you had better investigate, otherwise it’s too easy to imagine that you (or the station) pulled punches.
Sorry, Jeff, maybe I’m just salty because I missed a key James Spader scene in The Blacklist due to watching your report. But after watching you for 13 years as our hometown muckraking TV investigator of record, I expect more.