Wednesday, July 28, 2004

WLWT editor fired over insert

By Justin Fenton
Enquirer staff writer

A WLWT-TV online editor acknowledged Tuesday he was fired after a paragraph belittling reporter Raegan Butler was inserted into a story on the station's Web site.

The comments were placed into the last paragraph of a July 19 news report concerning a body identified in Portsmouth. Station officials said the story was discovered about 10 minutes after posting, but took days to remove from Google and Yahoo caches.

The former online editor, Dave Thomas, 33, said he did not write the comment but did accidentally place it in the story. He said he has attempted to contact Butler to apologize. "I take responsibility for what happened, and I'm disappointed," he said. "I had an excellent track record there, but I understand why I was terminated as well."

On July 20, WLWT president and general manager Richard Dyer posted an apology on Channel 5's Web site,

"On Monday, July 19, language was added to a news story on that was offensive and hurtful toward one of our staff members and was an egregious violation of the standards of this news organization," Dyer wrote.

"As soon as the posting was discovered it was immediately removed from and a company-wide effort was mounted to remove all references to the story from Web search engines. This posting was the result of one individual's actions, and that individual has been terminated."

Dyer said Tuesday that the station's investigation of the matter "revealed it wasn't intentional - it was a very, very big case of poor judgment."

Thomas worked for the Internet Broadcast Service, which contracts with 65 TV newsrooms nationwide to provide Internet content editors. Thomas worked in conjunction with Channel 5's staff to write and edit stories and turn TV news presentations into Web content, said news director Brennan Donnellan.

Donnellan said a proofreading process coordinated through IBS resulted in the July 19 story being caught before posting, but it made it to the Web site anyway.

"Our policy is that everything goes through proof readings," he said. "It was sent to a proofreader and was flagged, but somehow an individual managed to post it anyway."



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