There obviously may be a lot more to the Amy Jacobson story than what we've been told so far. In an interview with Eric Zorn from the Chicago Tribune, she's a little evasive about any previous visits to the Stebic house -- besides the one that was famously captured on video, and led to her firing -- only saying that, "All of us (reporters) have been by the house and to the door a bunch of times, of course".
However, until we know more, apparently Jacobson was invited to the house (by Stebic's sister, not Stebic himself), she phoned her husband to tell him where she'd be going and that she'd be bringing their two young children (there were other kids at the 'party' as well), and although her visit looked very social, she was there to help gather facts about the case for her ongoing coverage of the story for NBC.
What exactly did she do wrong? The only problem would be if her "relationship" with the Stebic family prohibited her from reporting the story fairly and accurately. We have no knowledge that this has been the case, so I think she should be cut some slack.
Granted, her statement in the Zorn interview that she shared information of her conversations with the police could very well put her in a witness stand someday soon, and while journalism experts criticize Jacobson's actions, the Plainfield Police Chief, Donald Bennett, said she wasn't doing anything wrong.
Amy Jacobson advised us on a couple of occasions that she had talked to Mr. Stebic.. That was it. It wasn’t like she was doing anything in conjunction with us. In my opinion she was simply making us aware that she had gone to the Stebic residence and had had a conversation with Mr. Stebic so that we’d know who was coming and going from there.
Amy Jacobson was not providing us insight or special information relating to the case. She was just making us aware when she was having contact with Mr. Stebic.
In my experience, most reporters try to have some rapport with law enforcement agencies.All our contacts with her were very professional.
Other news people have also told about when they tried to talk to Mr. Stebic, or when they did talk to him and that he didn’t say anything. It’s small talk. Amy Jacobson did the same as other people did.
I say, kudos to her for being in a position to be able to garner an invite to the house from the sister. In an ultra-competitive field, Jacobson took advantage of an opportunity to get some info from the Stebic household, while at the same time, spending time with her kids. The fact that it involved a pool, and Jacobson in a swimsuit is the reason this has escalated.
If the sister had invited her over for cookies and milk, and Jacobson went to the house to talk to the Stebic family while wearing a work outfit while sitting on the patio, or at the kitchen table, this would not be news. But put her in a swimsuit, at the same time a rival network's news cameras are rolling, and all of a sudden, a firestorm erupts.
Look, was it an odd situation? Yeah. Even a tad creepy. Her intent was to learn more about the story she's been reporting on for over two months. Whether the discussion took place in a living room, or at the side of a pool, why does that matter? As long as she is still able to report the story fairly, leaving aside any possible personal feelings of friendliness to the Stebic's, then there should be no problem. If there is, take her off the story. Suspend her. Firing her? Too harsh.