Louisiana News Station Fires Two Staffers Over Social Media Policy

The internet is abuzz with news about the firing of meteorologist Rhonda Lee for a Facebook post she made on her former employer’s account. Lee, who until November 28 was a meteorologist at KTBS in Shreveport, La., responded to a comment from a viewer on the station’s Facebook about the “Black woman with the short hair,” noting he didn’t like it and questioning if she was a cancer patient.

After several days Lee decided to respond with what I and many others consider a well-thought out message to the viewer, noting that her health was fine, her hair was a reflection of her African-American heritage, and that she hoped to set an example for kids that they can be successful with all types of appearances.

The higher-ups at KTBS responded by firing her for violating the station’s social media policy.

In a CNN interview Lee said she asked to see a copy of the policy and was told no, and that there wasn’t anything written down. An email sent to employee’s in August advised that “there is only one proper response” to viewer complaints on Facebook: “provide them with [REDACTED] contact information and tell them that he would be glad to speak with them about their concerns.” The email goes on to say that responding is a no-win situation for both the station and the viewer.

Rhonda Lee on CNN

As a social media community manager for a variety of brands–including media outlets–I find the email’s guidance is shortsighted. Of course there is no need to respond to every complaint, just as newspapers don’t address every contrarian letter to the editor. But the point of social media for many is conversation, something KTBS doesn’t appear interested in engaging in with viewers.

And that’s their right. But in this age, individuals have the platform to address queries directed at them, just as the public has platforms to express their opinions. Advising people to ignore questions, comments and criticisms without offering a solution to handle them is unreasonable.

KTBS social media email

The public has responded in force with the requisite Change.org petitions and hundreds of posts on the KTBS Facebook page. My best guess is that the posts on Facebook and around the web are 90/10 in Lee’s favor.

Chris Redford, former crime reporter with KTBS News in Shreveport, LA

Chris Redford, former crime reporter with KTBS News in Shreveport, LA

Lee was not the only KTBS employee fired for violating the station’s policy. Crime reporter Chris Redford was let go after reposting comments from the station’s Facebook page to his own Facebook account, adding his own commentary. The station’s email “policy” doesn’t mention what employees should do on their own social media accounts. Redmond has been silent regarding his firing.

I write “policy” in quotes because I think it’s highly suspect to have an email few employees (we don’t know who else was included because the station redacted the names before releasing it) become the basis of a firing for violating company policy. In her CNN interview Lee says she did not see the email, which is entirely possible.

In a prescient piece of writing, Redford responded to comments made about his looks on an Arkansas TV news blog last year:

At 9:30 AM, August 24, 2011,  Chris Redford (the real me) said…

I really hate to disappoint all the haters out there, but I have not been pulled off the air because of my looks.

I’ve been working a lot of different shifts lately… not that I owe this explanation to anyone at all, but as long as you’re going to insist on bashing me every chance you get, I thought it necessary.

Since my looks are apparently so offensive… maybe I should opt for plastic surgery, but I’ve seen what it can do and it’s not pretty. I’m sure there are some on here who can attest to that.

Why don’t y’all just rename this site to Ihatechrisredford.com?

Just remember, anonymous or not, we’re all held accountable for what we write.

Ain’t that the truth.

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