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KTBS-TV firings draw attention to social media policy

KTBS-TV, the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, is getting backlash on a national level over the firing of two employees who reportedly violated the station’s social media policy. The employees were dismissed last month. The station’s general manager George Sirven said in an email to Red River Radio that the two had violated a procedure for responding to viewer comments posted to KTBS’s Facebook page.

Meteorologist Rhonda Lee spoke out about her situation yesterday on CNN's "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brian. She explained her Facebook reply to a viewer who questioned her short hair. That post evolved into one about ethnicity.

"It behooves everyone I would feel to address these sorts of topics because racial instances, racial comments can be very sensitive," Lee told O'Brian. "If they're allowed to just sit there, it's almost condoning harsh comments like that instead of perhaps even defending the employee."

The founder of the ePolicy Institute and author of the Social Media Handbook, Nancy Flynn, says social media policies must be in writing and companies need to ensure that all employees understand them through proper training. She says the policies protect both the company’s reputation and its employees from being subject to workplace harassment.

"Social media gives us the opportunity to communicate and collaborate. It's sort of a freewheeling, open, transparent form of communication," Flynn said. "But in fact, it just ramps up all the risks that have circled around email and the web for the past couple decades."

Sirven's statement said television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism about their appearance, and that Lee was dismissed for violating company procedure. Lee told CNN that she’d never seen a social media policy in writing at KTBS, and the said Facebook post did not receive a response for six days until she replied.