Meteorologist says she was fired for Facebook response to viewer

Maynard Institute

La Crosse, Wis., TV anchor Jennifer Livingston hasn't read much about Rhonda Lee, who says she lost her meteorologist job at Shreveport, La., station KTBS because she replied on Facebook to a viewer who complained that the children featured in a station project were all "people of color."

"That being said, I don't think when you decide to become a journalist it means you have to put a piece of duct tape over your mouth regarding comments directed at you," Livingston wrote in an email to Poynter.

Lee told Richard Prince she was "chastised for responding at all" and was fired for violating a social media policy she said wasn't written down. Station GM George Sirven gave Prince a standard we-don't-comment-on-personnel-matters response.

Most journalists get comments from readers about their work, but TV reporters are often confronted by viewers with thoughts about their physical appearances. Lee had previously responded to a viewer who disliked her hairstyle, and Livingston set the Internet ablaze with a sharp on-air response to a viewer who commented about her body. “I don’t take a lot of crap from people,” the WKBT anchor told Poynter's Al Tompkins in October.

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.

Tompkins said Tuesday that while he doesn't know KTBS' policies, "Generally I would say the policy should be along the lines of, 'Would you say that on the air?' "

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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