Three KARK on-air employees and a photographer have been fired in the aftermath of two profanity-laden spoof videos posted to video-sharing website YouTube, ArkansasBusiness.com has learned.
KARK reporters Pete Thompson, Courtney Collins, Jake Hatley and news photographer Chris Jameson were fired Thursday after ArkansasBusiness.com first reported on the videos. In addition, up to five off-air employees were suspended for three days.
Rick Rogala, KARK's general manager and senior vice president at the NBC affiliate's owner, Nexstar Broadcasting of Irving, Texas, apologized to viewers in a statement e-mailed to ArkansasBusiness.com on Friday.
"In a very unfortunate series of incidents, a number of KARK employees acted on their own accord to produce unauthorized, offensive and distasteful videos that were subsequently posted to the internet. I am personally shocked and saddened by the behavior of these employees. KARK has no tolerance for this type of behavior and messages that degrade and discredit our community and our employees.
"As a result, those involved have faced swift and appropriate disciplinary action. On behalf of the dedicated team members of KARK who take great pride in their community and profession, I would like to extend our sincerest apologies."
Thompson was a general-assignment reporter, Collins was a reporter and weekend anchor, and Hatley was a weekend sports anchor. Their bios had been removed from the KARK website Friday morning. Jameson was on vacation in Dallas on Thursday and was fired over the phone, according to a source who knows him.
The videos were removed Thursday from YouTube, but are available here.
The video shorts spoof broadcast news as well as life in central Arkansas. They include scenes filmed inside KARK's newsroom and at its anchor desk, and what appears to be B-roll footage from Malvern's Brickfest and the "Twilight: Eclipse" premiere at the Rave Colonel Glenn 18 in west Little Rock.
The first video was posted in June and the second earlier this week.
Another scene shot at the Rave features former KTHV-TV, Channel 11, sports reporter Neil Sommerlatte, who left the station earlier this year and is now employed as a photographer at KARK. He is one of the employees who received a three-day suspension.