After publishing an article Dec. 28 titled, “Whitehouse.gov Petition Circulates In Response To Fox News (Lies) ‘Kill A Cop’ Chant (VIDEO),” left-wing news blog “If You Only News” received information from an anonymous source wishing to clear the air regarding local Baltimore Fox News affiliate WBFF’s debacle surrounding a segment by local investigative reporter Melinda Roeder.
As many are now aware, WBFF Fox 45 found itself in the midst of national ire after a video segment aired a week earlier on Dec. 21 in which demonstrators in Washington D.C. were edited to appear saying:
We won’t stop! We can’t stop! So kill a cop!
In actuality, the full, unedited chant was:
We won’t stop! We can’t stop! Till killer cops are in cell blocks!
You can see the edited and unedited versions of that chant below:
Soon, the woman leading the chant, Tawanda Jones, saw the footage for herself and sought to right the public record of that rally caught on video, the chant used, as well as her own dedicated work for peaceful civil action after the station attempted an apology. You can watch a video of Ms. Jones confronting WBFF regarding the faulty coverage below:
And now an anonymous source inside WBFF (and Roeder) has stepped forward to help “If You Only News” shed some light on the issue, stating essentially that the buck doesn’t stop with Roeder and that she may have, in fact, been a scapegoat in order for WBFF to save face, and its credibility.
In the anonymous source’s words:
As of [the end of the day] EOD 12/29/14, Melinda Roeder, the reporter who ran the story that caused all the controversy, is no longer employed at WBFF Fox 45.
According to the source, there is only speculation around the station as to whom ultimately made the call to create and air the segment that’s garnered so much attention around the country, namely because, as the source points out, “Ms [sic] Roeder is no longer employed, conveniently, and no one else directly involved is really talking about this incident.”
That speculation revolves primarily around News Director of WBFF Fox 45 Mike Tomko. Word around the office is that Tomko is the one who told Roeder “to cut and run the story that way.”
However, regarding the fact that these are merely speculations, the source goes on to say:
I wouldnt [sic] want to chalk it up to workplace rumoring, because the speculations themselves warrant a degree of merit.
These are speculations by employees who work in that environment every day and know how things run. While not being 100 percent confirmed, they are certainly worthy of attention.
The anonymous WBFF source also said to that end:
I do realize that the speculative details may not mean as much, but there seems to be enough concern going around regarding whether or not the allegations, slightly more detailed than just saying ‘the clip was intentionally manipulated’, are made public.
The WBFF insider went on to say:
Melinda Roeder is a respected and well decorated investigative reporter. It seems extremely unlikely that she was late for work and mistakenly forgot to grab her journalistic integrity on the way out the door that day.
However, in all fairness, the source also states:
I do not yet have confirmation that she had explicitly said to [Tomko] that there was more to the video, that there was more to what was being said, etc.
Yet, the source reiterated again:
It seems as though if she was lacking journalistic integrity that day, it was that she complied with her superior in fear of losing her job.
And who is Tomko? According to the source:
Mike Tomko is one of those people you just love to hate. It wouldn’t be a surprise to a single person at that station if it was proven that he made Ms [sic] Roeder edit the report to exclude proper context. He is easily one of the shadiest people Ive [sic] ever known, [sic] His character and work ethic seem to be fuel enough to generate such distinctly similar speculations within the station.
As for whom ultimately made the call regarding the possibly malicious (at worst) and less than professional video (at best), the source has this to say:
Outside of speculation, I can say that ultimately, News Director Mike Tomko, and VP of News Scott Livingston (also a higher up at Si[n]clair Broadcast Group, the station’s parent company), are the ones who would be most accountable for the incident. Tomko is ultimately responsible for all Fox 45 News programming content that makes air, and Livingston is responsible for the entire station, effectively. If people want a name to put the blame to, the reporter already suffered the consequences of a dubious set of circumstances, and theres [sic] people who are in charge, and responsible, and just so happen to have extremely shady reputations within the station.
Interestingly enough, the source also states:
[E]vidence exists that the report had gone thru the proper channels. Producer Scott Taylor, who produced the night the report aired, has the text convo on his phone between himself and news director mike tomko [sic] wherein Taylor expressed that he did not want to run the story as it was, seeing as it was clearly lacking context etc[.], but tomko [sic] told him to run the story anyway. So, at least there is one. . . person in charge, at least of the show at the time, who had expressed an opposition to running the piece.
The source also stated, in a very mild, slight defense of the segment:
The one questionable detail in this side of the story is that in the report, the title of the youtube [sic] video being used was clearly visible, so anyone could look it up and verify what the whole story was.
While that is very true, it’s clear whoever pushed the story at WBFF Fox 45 was banking on that not happening. Fortunately for the demonstrators, rare as it might be, someone did do their homework and looked up the original video, where they found, much to their surprise, a very different chant than the one that was being presented.
Straight from the reporter
Now, if an anonymous source is not enough for you to feel secure in what exactly took place at WBFF Fox 45 regarding the composition and airing of this story, perhaps you’d be more comfortable hearing directly from the reporter in the midst of this scandal, investigative journalist Melinda Roeder.
Ms. Roeder was kind enough to return “If You Only News” emails asking for confirmation of the anonymous source’s information, as well as for comment on the “kill a cop” incident, and had this to say:
Thank you for reaching out. I can confirm that I have been terminated from my employment with Sinclair Broadcasting under a clause in my contract that allows them to fire me ‘without cause.’ I can also confirm that the story idea and video originated with a manager who makes all content decisions. I have received a great deal of support from my coworkers, all of whom know the truth behind the circumstances, and I appreciate them very much. Many have reached out to me over the last two days. I am not a reckless reporter. I have earned several awards throughout my career because of my professionalism. . . .
It is disappointing in these situations that rank and file employees rarely get the opportunity to publicly defend themselves, or even have access to high-level corporate officials to be able to explain the circumstances.
As readers can see, Ms. Roeder verifies much of what the anonymous source has shared. That source also went on to state that the photographer working with Roeder on the segment was also fired.
I don’t have the full name of the photog who was fired. I only know he was something of a veteran at wbff [sic]. I’m not sure who did the actual editing, though[,] at this point, [sic] I’d have to assume if there was a third person involved, an editor presumably other than the reporter or photog, that there would’ve been another firing. The photog[’]s name is Greg, [sic] that’s all I can offer right now.
Later the source wrote back:
Photog[’]s name is Greg McNair.
The WBFF insider also shared that employees of the station are considering a “sick in” for New Year’s, as well as offered some thoughts on the protests set for Jan. 2 at Fox headquarters in NYC.
And lastly, with regards to the protest at Fox News Headquarters, it simply wont [sic] be an effective effort. Just the connection of WBFFs affiliation doesn’t [sic] necessarily mean that our stations [sic] views reflect those of Fox News solely. As an affiliate, our connection is content[-]based, in a top down manner. A controversial incident with a local reporter, covering a local event, in relation to events taking place in NY aren’t [sic] exactly Fox News’ responsibility or concern. If an effective protest is what the people calling for it want, then hold protests at Sinclair Broadcast Groups [sic] home office in Hunt Valley[,] MD, or directly, at the WBFF station on TV Hill, or both. Ive [sic] heard people actually laughing about the choice of protestors to rally at Fox News headquarters, because we have so little to do with them.
One has to admit, the source makes a good point. Perhaps demonstrations are already in the works at those locations, as well, and if they are not, perhaps they are about to be.
And from the fellow media
And finally, for you extreme skeptics out there, if you do not wish to take the word of an anonymous source, nor the word of the reporter in the midst of the scandal who also corroborates the source’s information, perhaps it will add even more merit to the story to learn that more and more media outlets are starting to pick up the story in wake of the “kill a cop” story.
“FTVLive,” subtitled “GOSSIP AND NEWS FROM INSIDE TV NEWSROOMS AROUND THE COUNTRY” also corroborates the information shared by the anonymous source and Roeder, and then some. FTVLive writes:
Insiders say that the story idea came directly from News Director Mike Tomko. ‘It was found by him, assigned by him and ultimately proofed by him,’ says a station insider to FTVLive.
FTVLive also writes:
Insiders tell FTVLive that Tomko did get a 1 day suspension and a Producer who texted. . . Tomko that night saying he was uncomfortable with the story got suspended 2 days.
So, it appears that the [News Director] ND got a slap on the wrist while others [were] penalized much more harshly.
This suggests, again, that Roeder was less than in control of the segment she did the voice over for, and that she was used as a scapegoat in the wake of the station’s scandal.
Also pointing toward a scramble to save face and cover up as much as possible, FTVLive writes:
Word is that WBFF [General Manager] GM Bill Fanshawe held a newsroom meeting to explain discipline handed out.
Sources say that when one Photographer asked a question, the GM refused to answer it. Instead, he offered to schedule a private meeting with the Photog.
That “photog” was later fired.
Citypaper.com also picked up the story, and they claim two sources confirm Roeder and the photographer, McNair, were canned in the wake of the segment’s scandal. Those two sources, according to Citypaper.com, also confirm the reports made by FTVLive, and the publication also mentions the “sick out” rumored to be afoot, stating further, “the news director is losing control of the newsroom.” Citypaper’s source states:
The reporters and photogs believe Tomko sacrificed two little people to save himself.
The publication also claims that both Roeder and McNair are “lawyering up.” Roeder later refuted that claim, however, in an interview with The Baltimore Sun.
The Sun also states in its own article:
Bill Fanshawe, general manager of WBFF, declined to comment today when asked about the firings, which were first reported on FTVLive.com, a TV-industry news and gossip website.
The Sun writes regarding Roeder’s termination:
A winner of 12 Emmys and 7 Murrow Awards, Roeder said there was a clause in her contract that allowed the station to terminate her without cause and that’s what happened on Monday.
Roeder said in the Sun interview:
They terminated my contract without cause.
The support I’m receiving from my co-workers has been amazing. I’m overwhelmed by how many people have reached out to me.
Roeder went on to tell the Sun, again confirming what the anonymous source suggested, that the genesis for the story came from WBFF management, and not herself. She was assigned the story. WBFF management, however, still declines to comment on how the video was edited in the scandalous manner it was. That silence, no doubt, does suggest a little something one would think, and it’s hard to imagine it’s innocence in the matter.
According to The Sun, Roeder has worked at WBFF since 2007 and has worked as a journalist in some form since 1997.
No matter where responsibility should reside in this unfortunate, ugly matter, however, let’s not forget the wrong that was done to Tawanda Jones, all the demonstrators at the D.C. march that day, and the larger movements working peacefully and diligently to bring about positive change in the names and memories of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and so many others who have lost their lives over the years to police violence.
You can read and sign the Go Left America whitehouse.gov petition asking President Obama to help instill integrity in journalism, here.
Featured image: foxbaltimore.com