UPDATE 1: Contact info for KTBS: link.
312 E. Kings Highway
Shreveport, Louisiana USA 71104
Main Number 318-861-5800
Hat tip to: Vita Brevis
Update 2 is at the end of the diary and includes KTSB's response in which they allege she made "repeated" violations of their social media policy. I also changed the title in order to reflect a story by Mediate about other racist Facebook comments to which Ms. Lee responded and to which KTSB apparently alludes in their defense of her firing.
Below, an image of Rhonda Lee created by GreyHawk with my thanks for permitting me to use it:
Read the following and tell me what you think was the real reason this African American female TV meteorologist was fired by her local television station:
Rhonda A. Lee found that truth out firsthand. Ms. Lee lost her job at KTBS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La. when she responded to a Facebook post criticizing her short afro. [...]
Emmitt Vascocu wrote, “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”
Lee replied the same day, “Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.
“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.
“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
“Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”
Ms. Lee's employer, KTBS-TV, has yet to provide any rule she broke in responding with such grace to what I would consider an offensive post by Mr. Vascocu. Ms. Lee did not broadcast her response over the airwaves, she merely posted a reply on FaceBook.
Lee said. “They told me the policy I violated isn’t written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A meeting I didn’t attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there isn’t anything to point to.”
You may recall a similar situation where Jennifer Livingston, a white female broadcaster responded on-air to criticism she had received about her weight. Ms. Livingston was applauded for standing up for herself, and she still has her job. I guess her employer is a little more enlightened than Ms. Lee's employer -- or something.
Ps. Ms. Livingston has Rhonda Lee's back on this one:
In an email Tuesday, Livingston wrote, “If someone is going to post on a public site, there should be a reasonable expectation that those comments will be addressed.”
Of course, you need to do so in a respectful and thoughtful manner. I think we as journalists are still trying to pave the way with integrating social media into our daily workflow. No clear rules have been defined so every station is different.
Personally – I’d have written that person back in a heartbeat.
Mediate is running a story that claims Ms. Lee also responded to racist comments posted to the KTSB Facebook page (regarding an annual toy giveaway known as "The Three Minute Smile") on November 14, 2012 by a Kenny Moreland. Here is the first Moreland comment:
Not to start any trouble, because I think that the annual “Three Minute Smile” is a great function and I love to see kids so happy. Am I the only one that has noticed that this year, all the kids, lets say, are people of color? This is Channel 3, not KSLA, the “Project Pride” network, that might as well be part of the BET channel. Did KTBS slip up on a news story, and owe S’port’s criminal mayor Cedric, a favor? Seems like some racism going on to me. Just saying…..
Here is an excerpt from Ms. Lee's response which primarily addresses Moreland's claims:
The children are picked at random. So there goes your theory that they are selected for their color. I would like to think that it doesn’t matter who the child is. If you truly just want to see the kids happy your message had a funny way of showing it.
Happy holidays. –Met. Rhonda Lee
Mediate claims that after Ms. Lee informed them of the Moreland comments they removed her response but left the Moreland comments up on their Facebook page. For the complete Mediate story go to this link.
In addition, KTSB has now officially responded to these claims.
Here is the official KTBS response on their Facebook page to Ms. Lee's firing:
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.
KTSB's response also included a redacted copy of the aforementioned email, dated August 30, 2012, they claim was sent to Ms Lee which states their "official policy" regarding social media. They argue her "repeated violations" of that policy forms the sole basis for her firing. The email can be seen at the KTSB Facebook page or at this link
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