Friday, March 25, 2016

Wither Wendy Bell?

Boy, has this whole Wendy Bell situation turned into a dumpster fire. People are getting all sorts of bent out of shape about this situation. FB groups calling for her to be drawn and quartered. An equal number of her supporters demanding that she receive a public apology for her speaking out about the horrible shootings in Wilkinsburg that killed 5 people including an unborn child.  The links below will provide the background.
I'm pretty sure that Wendy was showing her naïveté and her privilege when she posted her reaction to the Wilkinsburg shootings on her company sponsored FB page. Not a smart idea. Is she racist? No, I don't think so. Should she have thought twice before stereotyping the shooters involved in the massacre before they have been arrested, much less identified? Yes. She made the fatal mistake of assuming that the shooters were Black. And she found out the hard way what happens when you make assumptions. Yep, they make an ASS out of U and ME. Chances are the shooters are Black. But Wendy Bell is supposed to be a journalist, and she has stated that she graduated from a top level J-school. Don't remember which one it was, but she obviously was not in class the day they taught the rule that a journalist doesn't report on assumptions, they report on the facts. And if the facts aren't in yet, you keep your yap shut.
I don't know the woman from Adam. I follow her WTAE FB page, and she seems like a pleasant enough person. I don't want her fired, or drawn and quartered, or to suffer whatever the Internet executioners think she should suffer. I'm pretty sure she got a nice ass chewing from her bosses and was suspended for a few days. Hopefully, she learned her lesson. If you gotta rant, don't do it on the company's FB page. And don't assume.  

"But Uncle Pee, you engage in speculation and assumptions on the Scribbler."

 But the difference between me and Wendy Bell is that I'm just a private citizen who's flapping his yap on a blog. I don't claim to be a journalist. I don't have a degree in journalism. I don't have journalistic credentials. I can count the number of people who give two craps about the Scribbler on one hand and still have fingers left over.  Wendy's FB page had thousands of followers and generated hundreds of likes and shares. She's a public figure posting on a Facebook page set up by her employer. When she posted on that page, she was representing her employer.  And if what she posted on that platform provided by her employer causes said employer to catch hell and fall into disrepute, that employer has the right to discipline her. 

If I say something stupid on my personal blog, the worst I'll catch is crickets and indifference. Although a potential  employer could also use anything I write here against me if I post something that causes them to get the heebie-jeebies.  And all the folks who are screaming "Free speech!!" need to revisit their civics lectures from high school.  Free speech does not protect a person from being held up to criticism by the public for what they say, nor does it protect them from an employer launching disciplinary action against them if what that person said violates the employers rules regarding acceptable content on a website or FB page they own.  Free speech protects the person from GOVERNMENT censorship. It does not apply to posts on a message board.  Wendy Bell will not go to jail for what she wrote. 

Since I posted this, Wendy Bell was fired from WTAE. But after stewing on this latest development, I'm starting to wonder whether there are other factors involved. Here we have a news anchor who has been employed at WTAE for 18 years. Pittsburgh is a market that looooves older anchors. We have a lot of old folks in this town and they like their news readers with a certain maturity in their appearance.  Bell also has won a bunch of regional Emmys. She has a certain level of cred in the news business in Pittsburgh. 
You'd think that a miscue of a level that Wendy committed could have been dealt with by a suspension with or without pay, a public mea culpa, or some other alternative to dropping the hammer on her.  But that's exactly what WTAE and their parent company, Hearst Communications did.  

Now I am engaging in speculation off the top of my head, or out of a certain orifice at the other end of my body, but I'm starting to think that this incident on Facebook is merely the last straw of a series of incidents between Bell and WTAE that were settled in-house. She has too much professional cred in Pittsburgh to get blown out for what I consider a gross lack of judgement. A suspension, yes. Termination? No.  I'm pretty sure that an anchor with her rep and cred was getting paid pretty good money at 'TAE.  I wonder whether she was blown out to make way for younger, cheaper talent, and this incident provided a convenient way for station management to let her go?  I'm pretty sure the order to pull the trigger came from above station management.  As we used to say in the Navy, "Shit rolls downhill." 
I don't think it's necessary to hold a bake sale for Wendy Bell. She was making a nice buck at Channel 4, she's married to a prominent cardiologist. If she's smart, she and hubby will pack up the kids, take a nice long vacation, maybe even move out of Pittsburgh, and see what's out there. I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up as one of the talking heads on a cable news channel. She's still fairly young, she's attractive, she's competent. If she plays this right, she could do a good deal better than doing local news in Pittsburgh.

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