Responding to an uproar over the firing of Rhonda Lee, a meteorologist who responded to criticism of her short Afro on the station’s Facebook site, the news director at KTBS in Shreveport, La., said the firing was over violations of station policy, not her hair.
Randy Bain, KTBS news director, pointed to a memo emailed to staff members on Aug. 30. Lee told Journal-isms Wednesday, however, that the memo referred to viewer complaints, and she viewed the Facebook message as a comment, not a complaint. In any case, Lee said, while she does not deny its existence, “That’s the first I’m hearing of this memo.”
Bain issued the following late Tuesday:
“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.”
The Aug. 30 email is addressed to several people, including Lee [scroll down]. The other names are redacted. It says: