Social media, the media, and racism

What should a media person do when confronted with an audience member’s opinion he/she sees as racist?

In Shreveport, a black female meteorologist was fired because she responded to an apparently racist remark on the station’s Facebook page.

The media site, Journal-isms says a viewer of TV station KTBS posted this:

“The black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”

To which meteorologist Rhonda Lee replied:

“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.

“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.

“Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

She was fired. The TV station execs said it’s not the first time the meteorologist responded to race-based comments. Last month she responded to a viewer who said there were too many children of color in a promotion the TV station was running to help deserving kids at Christmas.

Journal-isms provided this memo on company policy:

“When we see complaints from viewers, it’s best not to respond at all. Responding to these complaints is a very sensitive situation and oftentimes our off-the-cuff first response will be the wrong response. Even if our immediate reaction response to the complaint were exactly what it should be, it still leaves us open to what has a huge opportunity to become an argument. Either way, it’s a no-win situation for us, and for the viewer also.

“If you choose to respond to these complaints, there is only one proper response: Provide them with (redacted) contact information, and tell them that he would be glad to speak with them about their concerns. Once again, this is the only proper response.

It’s opened up a continuing debate in media circles: Can media people be people on social media or should social networking accounts be mere promotional tools?