My mom called me first thing this morning and told me she wanted me to use this space to mount a letter-writing campaign to save former WSLS meterologist Jamey Singleton’s job.
When I got home from work yesterday, I had not one, not two, but THREE voice mails from people wanting to know if I’d heard the news yet. According to WSLS in an official statement on its website:
“The decision to terminate Jamey was made after he violated the morals clause of his contract, which stipulates that contracted employees not become involved in any situation that can be found to be offensive or out of line with community standards. The most recent incident involved an inappropriate photograph made public by way of e-mail.”
I immediately thought a couple of not-so-charitable things about what the inappropriate photograph might be, and I even emailed a couple of people to share my theories. But then my mom called me this morning and told me she’d been Googling Jamey to try to get more information, and she’d read a bunch of nasty rumors, and she felt it was my job to write something different here.
I’ve been writing about WSLS meteorologists here practically since I started the site almost four years ago. Most notably, I decided to jump into the fray about Marc Lamarre’s heroin overdose back in February, and Jamey was a part of that conversation since there were rumors flying that he also had a drug problem, nearly starting a flame war about whether or not my suspicions were well-founded. For what it’s worth, I was right, and several months ago Jamey admitted on the air that he had been in treatment for addiction. I didn’t write about it at the time because I didn’t have much to say about it other than, “I told you so, bitches.”
So here we are now. From all accounts I’ve read or heard in the last few months, Jamey’s made a concerted effort to turn his life around. I certainly think there’s something to be said for that. When I first heard yesterday that he’d been fired, I didn’t know why, and I immediately guessed that he’d slipped back into addiction. As it turns out, I was wrong. It was that whole inappropriate photograph thing.
Now, where it gets interesting is in this Roanoke Times interview with Jamey Singleton, where he gives his side of the story. According to him, what happened was that a former friend (ostensibly from the crowd he hung around with while involved with drugs) snapped a digital photo of him as he was getting out of the shower one day several months ago. On Tuesday, the former friend posted it to MySpace. The rest is history.
WSLS management saw it, determined that it constituted a violation of his contract, and released him from the station.
I can kind of see both sides of the issue here. I can’t imagine how intensely embarrassing all of this attention must be for Jamey and for his family. And if he’s telling the truth about how this happened, it really sucks. If true, it looks like someone he cut ties with in an attempt to get his shit together decided to repay him by doing something pretty cruel – something that this former friend surely must have known would endanger Singleton’s job. It would be a shame if after all the hard work he’s done and all the support the station had given him, he ended up losing his job over something that appears to be completely and totally not his fault.
There’s no way for me to know if Jamey’s version of the story is true, and I haven’t seen the picture and am not exactly killing myself trying to find the thing. But I will say that I can totally buy that it happened exactly the way he says it did. That stuff happens all the time. Singleton is 28, and I have personal knowledge of many dickish former frat boys in their 20s who live their entire lives trying to pull a prank like this.
On the other hand, I can understand the difficult position WSLS is in as a result of this. They took a lot of flak for supporting Jamey through rehab and recovery, and many of the viewers in this very conservative area criticized them for giving him a second chance at all. I understand how it may seem like crap just keeps sticking to this guy over and over, even if it isn’t his fault, and that it gets to a point where it seriously affects the station’s image. What if the picture had been of him in a compromising position with another person? It seems like the decision would be easier then, though it still might not be his fault.
I used to be acquainted with a news anchor who told me that her station had to check with their consultant to see if it would be okay for her to start wearing her hair curly instead of spending hours to straighten it each day. When she started wearing it curly on the air, people emailed her to complain about it. She was an occasional smoker who felt it necessary to go and hide somewhere when she wanted to smoke in public, like at a bar, because someone had once seen her smoking in public and called the station to complain. I cannot imagine living my life, even in a small place like this, with every single decision I make subjected to public scrutiny. A lot of people say that if you get to a certain point of fame, you’re no longer allowed to complain that your privacy is gone, or that people are bugging you. They say it’s a risk you knowingly take when you take the job. And that may be true, but I seriously would never have guessed that if I’d chosen a career in TV news (as I’d once planned), that I might have to ask a damn consultant if it was okay to change my hairstyle.
It’s well known around here that Jamey Singleton is a local guy who grew up wanting to be a meteorologist. During his years at WSLS he was really living that dream, and it’s a shame that it had to end this way. I’ve poked at him a bit over the years here, but I really have liked him on the air. I haven’t warmed up to the new weather crew so far and I hate to see Singleton go.
The last time I decided to write about this, there was a strong discussion about whether or not those people in the grips of addiction were victims who needed help. It certainly seems like in this case, if things happened exactly as Singleton claims, then he may be more of a victim than when he was making poor choices for himself. Of course, we can only go on what we know here, and there may be further issues that never made it to the air that impacted the station’s decision.
What do you think? Did the station have another choice in this matter? Did he bring it all on himself? How much did his past problems affect the decision in this case? If you lived here, would you ask the station to reinstate him?