This March in Pittsburgh, a veteran broadcaster with 21 Emmy Awards and 18 years with WTAE-TV was fired after she posted a Facebook screed that stereotyped some young black men as thugs.
A recent mass shooting at a backyard barbecue in Pittsburgh left five black residents dead, including a woman who was eight months pregnant. The massacre became a national news story, and before police identified a suspect, WTAE-TV news anchor Wendy Bell wrote the now famous Facebook post.
On Wednesday, March 30, the station “ended its relationship” with Bell, and her former boss said the Facebook post was “inconsistent with the company’s ethics” and showed an “egregious lack of judgement.”
The post read in part:
“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so man hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. I will tell you they live within 5 miles of Franklin Avenue and Ardmore Boulevard and have been hiding out since in a home likely much closer to that backyard patio than anyone thinks. they are young black men, likely teens are in their early 20′s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have grown up in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested. They’ve made the circuit and nothing has scared them enough. Now they are lost. Once you kill a neighbor’s three children, two nieces and her unborn grandson, there’s no coming back.”
The veteran reporter and broadcaster now says that she was never given a “fair shake,” but perhaps she should have known how the social media masses would react to her racial comments. After all, people of all ages check social media sites like Facebook constantly. In fact, about 23% of Facebook users — nearly one in four — check the site at least five times a day. Before she was let go, Bell issued an apology for the incident on — where else? — Facebook.
“I sincerely apologize for the post about the Wilkinsburg mass shooting,” Bell wrote. “I now understand that some of the words I chose were insensitive and could be viewed as racist. I regret offending anyone.”
In addition to her comments on the race and families of the shooters, Bell also contrasted the hypothetical criminals with a black restaurant server she recently encountered. While Bell may have thought her post was constructive, many readers found it to be patronizing.
In her original post she wrote: “But there is HOPE. and Joe and I caught a glimpse of it Saturday night. A young, African American teen hustling like nobody’s business at a restaurant we took the boys to over at the Southside Works. This child stacked heavy glass glasses 10 high and carried three teetering towers of them in one hand with plates puled high in the other. He wiped off the tables. Tended to the chairs. Got down on his hands and knees to pick up the scraps that had fallen to the floor. And he did tall this with a rhythm like a dancer with a satisfied smile on his face. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s going to Make it.”
So far, police have made no arrests in the backyard massacre.