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Sometimes the camera should be in their faces -- as Fox4 showed by playing "Gotcha" to good effect

Former consignment store owner Steve Hall didn't want to be on camera during Fox4's Wednesday 9 p.m. news. Consumer reporter Steve Noviello exposed him anyway. And rightly so. Photo: Ed Bark

"Gotcha" journalism can still get you noticed on both local and national TV.

It almost always involves someone not wanting to be on camera -- but to no avail. And there are recurring abuses, including Fox4 "Street Squad" reporter James Rose's decision last November to needlessly put a minor traffic violator on camera after she told him emphatically and repeatedly, "No, I don't want to be on TV." Rose had plenty of other agreeable motorists to choose from, as his report showed. He opted to include the woman anyway in what seemed to be undue bullying.

But Dallas-based Fox4 was on the side of the angels Wednesday night. Veteran consumer reporter Steve Noviello, in one of his frequent "On Your Side" pieces, zeroed in on the now defunct Red Cat Consignment Boutique, which had been located in the Lake Highlands Village shopping center before abruptly shutting down.

A number of people who had placed their goods in the store were left empty-handed. One aggrieved party, Jean Perry, said she later found some of her old possessions at an estate sale being held by one of Red Cat's proprietors, Marukh Hall. She took some cell phone pictures of her stuff before being evicted.

Noviello was unable to find Marukh. But he did track down her surly husband, Steve, Red Cat's other proprietor.

"I'm not answering your questions," he said before slapping his hand on a Fox4 camera lens. And later, "Hey, take the camera off me, man."

Hall contended that he had filed for bankruptcy, but had no answer when Noviello told him, "There's no record of your bankruptcy filing, sir." He was last seen driving off after barking, "Just get the hell out of here."

(NBC5 reporter Omar Villafranca reported on Red Cat in late January, but was unable to reach either of the Halls. It makes a big difference, visually at least, when you succeed in cornering your prey and showing them for what they are.)

The Halls of course sought media attention for the grand opening of Red Cat last summer. And they certainly got it from some circles. But now Steve Hall is trying to act as though his privacy is being invaded. Not so.

Noviello, who gives Fox4 a lot of bang for their bucks, is both an entertaining and diligent reporter. He pulls no punches with his recurring "Deal or Dud" product evaluations. And his investigations and other enterprise pieces are generally both substantive and well-researched. Yeah, he loves the camera. But he also knows how to put together stories and make them resonate. Over the years, I can't think of anything he's done that's been flat-out boring. Some of them have been a little ridiculous, but who among us hasn't laid an egg on occasion?

Noviello was on solid ground in cornering Steve Hall and trying to find out what's happened to all those items that used to stock Red Cat's now vacant premises. The alleged perpetrator came off as a weasel who deserved to be on the receiving end of an avenging camera lens. "Gotcha" journalism strikes again, and this time with good reason. Here's video of Noviello's complete story: