There has been an interesting development in the firing of meteorologist, Rhonda Lee. Station management is apparently breaking its own so-called social media policy to speak out about the firing of the African-American meteorologist at KTBS-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana. The station fired Lee after she defended herself on Facebook over racist comments posted by viewers. The comments were ignored by news management.
In the past 24 hours, the station has been bombarded on Facebook and Twitter with people angry over the firing of Lee. No telling how many phone calls and emails they got from angry viewers and people around the country.
Critics on Facebook and Twitter did not hold back:
This is absurd! Shame on you
#KTBS-TV. Meteorologist Fired for Responding to ‘Racist’ Facebook Post
Rhonda Lee, If their social media policy isn’t in writing, it isn’t a legal policy !!
#KTBS Fail !!
J Scott wrote on Facebook:
I was very offended when I read about this situation! I would like to think that KTBS would want to be viewed as a “community” station, that serves ALL the people of the Shreveport-Bossier community.
KTBS-TV VIOLATES ITS OWN UNWRITTEN SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY
Just after 11pm on Tuesday, December 11, KTBS-TV released a statement on Facebook about Lee and another employee terminated for allegedly violating their unwritten social media policy. You may recall, Lee told blogger, Richard Prince of Journal-ism that she was told by management that it was a policy that was not written down.
Now it seems that the station has violated its own “unwritten” social media policy by responding on Facebook about the controversy. Here’s the statement it released on Facebook:
Typically this station does not comment on personnel matters, but due to the publicity and interest about this issue, the station has included the following statement.
On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country.Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.
KTBS even shared a screen shot of an email sent out in August by the stations marketing manager. This is an email not an official social media policy. Now the station is trying to claim this email was the policy. Please….
MISSING THE SOCIAL MEDIA POINT
There is nothing in the email that addresses dealing with comments with racial overtones. There is nothing in the email that addresses how long you let a racist comment sit on a website for everyone to see. Lee told CNN that the comment sat on the website for 6 Days. There is nothing in the email that addresses what the station will do to defend a person of color when they are attacked on Facebook.
Social media policies cannot be just “blanket” statements. A good policy should cover ever issue as a “stand alone” especially when it pertains to racist comments. Being called a terrible reporter is different from someone calling you out as “the black lady” and not giving you the proper respect of using your name. That hurts!
WHO GETS FIRED NEXT
So now that KTBS has issued its response on Facebook; it has broken its own policy that General Manager, George Sirven says Lee violated. Remember the email read:
“When we see complaints from viewers, it’s best not to respond at all.”
So who gets fired next? Someone wrote the statement and approved it. But here’s the reality, different rules apply for people of color in TV broadcasting. Yes, even in 2012.
- News Director: Randy Bain, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 318-861-5880
- General Manager, George Sirven, phone: 318-861-5821
- KTBS-TV Facebook
Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award-winning reporter based in Dallas, TX. She has 31 years of experience in journalism. She’s also a news consultant and public speaker.