Tuesday, July 13, 2010

KARK-TV Little Rock fire employees over YouTube videos

KARK General Manager Rick Rogala apologized in a statement Friday to viewers and said disciplinary action has been taken. ... The videos were originally posted on YouTube but have since been removed. Rogala called the spoof videos "unauthorized, offensive and distasteful. 

KARK reporters Pete Thompson, Courtney Collins, Jake Hatley and news photographer Chris Jameson were fired Thursday after ArkansasBusiness.com first reported on the videos. In addition, up to five off-air employees were suspended for three days. 

KARK-TV Little Rock reporters fired over YouTube videos


Several reporters and photographers at Nexstar’s KARK-TV (NBC) Little Rock were apparently involved in producing two profanity-laden videos on the station premises and posting them on YouTube. A local business newspaper found about the spoof videos and four employees were fired by the station on Friday.

In the first of the two videos in the “Report This!!!” series reporter Pete Thompson says “I hate my job” and fantasizes about leaving Central Arkansas for a dream job in Miami. Now he has no job. Although the station logo was pixilated, Thompson made no effort to disguise himself, except to use the name “Pete Johnson,” nor did others who participated in the video shoots.

Arkansas Business became aware of the YouTube videos and posted a story about them on Thursday. The videos were quickly removed from YouTube. Too late. Arkansas Business had already snared copies and posted them here

According to Arkansas Business, Thompson was fired along with weekend anchor Courtney Collins, who portrayed the station news director in the videos, weekend sports anchor Jake Hatley and photographer Chris Jameson. Several other employees reportedly received three-day suspensions.

“In a very unfortunate series of incidents, a number of KARK employees acted on their own accord to produce unauthorized, offensive and distasteful videos that were subsequently posted to the internet. I am personally shocked and saddened by the behavior of these employees.  KARK has no tolerance for this type of behavior and messages that degrade and discredit our community and our employees. As a result, those involved have faced swift and appropriate disciplinary action.  On behalf of the dedicated team members of KARK who take great pride in their community and profession, I would like to extend our sincerest apologies,” said Nexstar Sr. Vice President Rick Rogala in an email statement sent to RBR-TVBR. Rogala is the General Manager of KARK and KARZ-TV (MyNet).

RBR-TVBR observation: It’s one of those “what were they thinking?” cases. It may have been intended as a joke, but insulting the local community and denigrating your employer, even in jest, is just begging to be fired.


In YouTube
Video Shot in Newsroom, KARK Reporters Spoof News Business

Robert Bell - 7/8/2010 2:31:20 PM

at KARK-TV, Channel 4, are the stars of a profanity-laden spoof of
broadcast news, now removed from YouTube, in which KARK news reporter
Pete Thompson appears as a disgruntled news reporter in scenes shot
inside KARK's newsroom and at the NBC affiliate's anchor desk.

two videos, one posted in late June and another this week, were removed
Thursday from the Google-owned video-sharing website, but are
available here
. They are titled "Report This!!!" and were posted to
YouTube under the username SpoiledKidsPictures.

an interview Thursday with ArkansasBusiness.com,
Thompson confirmed that the videos were shot at KARK's studios in the
Victory Building in Little Rock. The videos also incorporate what
appears to be B-roll footage filmed at the Malvern Brickfest and the
Rave movie theater in Little Rock.

When asked about the videos,
Thompson said he didn't want to comment further.

"I think we're
going to take those down," he said. "We were just doing some practice
things for the 48-hour film festival coming up."

Asked whether
his bosses were aware of the videos, Thompson said that he would have to
speak with them about it.

"It's really not that big a deal," he
said, and immediately hung up the phone.

Calls to KARK News
Director Rob Heverling were not immediately returned. Station Manager
Rick Rogala was out of the office and unable to comment. KARK is owned
by Nexstar Broadcasting of Irving, Texas.

It not unusual for
on-air reporters to have clauses in their employment contracts regarding
off-camera public behavior. Such clauses are in place to prevent
employees from reflecting poorly on their employer. It is not known what
kind of contract KARK's on-air reporters might have.

bio on KARK's website
states that he has "a life-long passion for
storytelling" and that he is "excited to report on this historic
southern city with its rich tradition."

'Miami or Bust'

the first video, "Miami or
Thompson's character, "Pete Johnson," believes he's about to
be offered a job at a Miami TV station. He constantly complains about
his assignments in both voiceover and in dialogue with his co-workers.

Thompson's character is assigned to cover the Malvern Brickfest, he
complains, "Please God, get me the hell out of here."

"It was hot
as s**t outside," he says later. "At least in Miami they have beaches.
And good coke."

Toward the end of the episode, he slaps an
interviewee and is reprimanded by his boss, played by KARK weekend
anchor Courtney Collins. Collins did not immediately return calls for

Thompson, in his role as KARK reporter, actually did
attend Brickfest and filed a report for KARK's weekend newscast. Video
of that report is available on KARK's website here. It contains
some of the same B-roll shots used in the YouTube video.

In the
second "Report This!!!" video, "Is This Mic On?"
, Collins' character
reprimands Thompson's character for slapping the interviewee.

signed a contract when you started here that said you were going to
represent the station," she said. She adds, "This really reflects badly
on you," before informing him he must attend anger management courses.

in the episode, Thompson appears interviewing people standing in line
to see the film "Twilight: Eclipse" at the Rave movie theater in west
Little Rock.

While some identifying elements are blurred out,
such as the KARK logo on a microphone Thompson uses, the second episode
features scenes shot in the KARK newsroom and at the KARK anchor desk.
Some scenes seem to feature other KARK employees. Another scene, at the
Rave movie theater, feature former KTHV-TV, Channel 11, sports reporter
Neil Sommerlatte, who left the station earlier this year and is now
employed at KARK.

Arkansas Business and Gannett Co.-owned CBS
affiliate KTHV have a news-sharing agreement.

to KARK's website
, Collins earned a journalism degree from the
Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston,
Ill., and Thompson earned a bachelor's in communications and liberal
arts from the University of Texas at Austin.

This is not the
first time the couple have been the subject of Internet video. Thompson proposed to Collins on-air during an April
2009 KARK newscast
. Video of the proposal was featured on CNN and
other broadcasts around the world.


  • that's lame they were fired for the videos. a film festival is all about free speech. the crap news stations report about these days is far more violent than any profanity. i'd rather have profanity than reports on whose killing who, especially in littlerock with high crime.

    July 14, 2010 at 7:15 PM

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