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Reporter visits source’s pool, loses job

Megan Reichgott Associated Press

CHICAGO – A television reporter left her job Tuesday after she was caught on video in a swimsuit at the home of a man whose wife disappeared two months ago – a story she was assigned to cover – raising ethical questions about her conduct.

The video, posted on a rival station’s Web site, shows veteran WMAQ-TV reporter Amy Jacobson wearing a halter bikini top and towel near the pool at Craig Stebic’s suburban Plainfield home.

Jacobson’s two young children and a bare-chested Stebic are also shown in the video, shot Friday.

Staff members received a memo Tuesday afternoon from station officials saying that “Amy Jacobson is leaving NBC 5 News, effective immediately,” according to the Chicago Tribune, which obtained a copy.

Jacobson had not appeared on air since news of the video broke Monday.

“If you’re a reporter you don’t put yourself in that kind of situation, especially if you’re covering the story,” said Larry Stuelpnagel, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and department of political science.

Jacobson’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner, told the Tribune she was concerned the media would distort the contents of the tape.

“She wasn’t fired. There was no drinking. No one was sitting in a hot tub. She wasn’t anywhere near him (Craig Stebic),” Zellner said. “(Stebic’s) sister invited her to drop by.”

Jacobson was assigned to cover the disappearance of Stebic’s wife, Lisa, who still lived with her husband while the two went through a divorce. No one has been charged in the case, which has generated high interest here since the young mother of two disappeared April 30.

Stebic’s husband was the last person to see her, but police have said he is not a suspect in the disappearance. On the day she disappeared, Lisa Stebic had mailed a petition seeking to remove her husband from the home. In the divorce case, she accused him of being “unnecessarily relentless, cruel, inconsiderate, domineering and verbally abusive.”

“We’re very sad because Amy was one of our staunchest allies, she was a champion of the story,” said Melanie Greenberg, who acts as the Stebic family spokeswoman. “It makes a difference when you have a dedicated reporter covering the story. … She was doing her damnedest to cover this story.”

Neither a station spokeswoman nor Zellner returned telephone messages left Tuesday by the Associated Press. A telephone message to Craig Stebic also was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Jacobson told her bosses that she was on her way with her sons to go swimming at a local club when Craig Stebic’s sister asked her to go to his house to talk about the case, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

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