Ready, aim, fire: Kevin Roy shoots the messenger

Ready, aim, fire: Kevin Roy shoots the messenger

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Kevin Roy

Poor Kevin Roy. If his story weren’t so pathetic, it would be funny. Nearly five months after he blew the career of a lifetime at the top-rated station in Chicago, he’s now trying to rewrite history and blame me‚ for his failure to land another job in television news. Yes, me. As you may recall, Roy, 42, lost his gig last spring as weekend morning news anchor and reporter at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. The ax fell after 12 years at the station when Roy didn’t show up for the newscast he was assigned to anchor April 25 — forcing co-workers to scramble for a substitute at the last minute. It was the third time in a matter of months that he had failed to report for work as scheduled. In each case, he cited “physical exhaustion” for his absences. Those are the facts I reported at the time, along with the following statement Roy issued:

“I’m profoundly sorry that WLS has decided not to renew my contract when it‚ expires, though I understand the reason.‚ By failing to show up at my‚ appointed time, I abused the station’s reliance on me. To those who might‚ speculate on the reason, be assured that my problem is one of physical‚ exhaustion only; I only wish I had taken the opportunity to take some time‚ off, rather than try to muscle through.‚ Chicago‚ is my home, and WLS has been‚ my refuge for 12 years.‚ I’ll deeply miss my association with the station‚ and my colleagues, but I’m committed to remaining here.‚ Like Chicago‚ itself, I need to have‚ Big Shoulders.‚ I hope to come through this having‚ learned a valuable lesson in maturity.”

A few days later, I followed up with a fairly sympathetic piece about the unfortunate ending to a job Roy had dreamed of since childhood — years before he stepped in front of a camera to anchor his first newscast at Oak Park River Forest High School. Roy thanked me for that story and the overall way I’d written about his ordeal. Over the next few months, I heard from him several more times. Since he specifically asked that his messages be kept off the record, I’m not at liberty to quote from them. But it’s fair to say that each and every one of the emails he sent me was gracious and appreciative. So imagine my surprise Thursday when I discovered that I’d suddenly become the fall guy for Roy’s continued unemployment. In a full-scale multimedia offensive, he took to YouTube, he took to Facebook, he took to Twitter, and he took to his own blog to denounce me for reporting that he had been fired. “I want to take a moment to clear something up,” he wrote. “I wasn’t fired. My contract ‘wasn’t renewed.‘” What apparently set him off was a Google search of his name, which turned up multiple references to my blog posts. Wrote Roy:

“The word ‘fires’ appears incorrectly on at least two of the top results of a search on me.‚ It first appeared in the Feder blog, a man who’s [sic] column I have followed and enjoyed for years. At the time, I knew instantly it wasn’t accurate, and I wish I had sent a message to Mr. Feder back in late April to let him know.‚ But I was inundated with a flood of phone calls and messages, and I also didn’t appreciate how it might make my job search more difficult down the road. “Today, I have to wonder what impact it’s having.‚ It took me 12 years to build a spotless reputation, working 4 a.m. shifts after being at the station until 10 p.m. the night before.‚ Or pulling double shifts anchoring the early morning news and coming back to do the evening news as well when the station was conducting a search that took four months. “That reputation was tarnished with an inaccurate headline from a blog posting which seemingly set the tone.‚ Other blogs copied the phrase, and now it appears to be set in the stone of search engineers [sic], which work in some mysterious way and getting them to change anything is next to impossible. ‚ You ever try to call Google or even send the company a message requesting help?‚ And it’s not just Google.‚ Yahoo, Bing, you name it, the same wrong fact keeps popping up.”

What’s more disturbing than Roy’s insistence that he wasn’t fired was his attempt to compare his situation to those of Jeff Goldblatt and Nancy Loo, two former news anchors at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. While it’s true that their contracts weren’t renewed, neither had done anything to discredit themselves or their station. For Roy to invoke their names in the context of his own conduct is simply outrageous. (Goldblatt debuts today on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, and Loo works at Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9.) Roy concluded his bizarre screed with a lecture on journalism:

“Please don’t think of this as a case of sour grapes. I don’t begrudge anyone a taste of the good life and landing a broadcasting gig in Chicago.”¨ I, too, am dreaming of and searching for that kind of break.‚ And until Google or some headline writer cares enough to change a factual error, I realize it may be a little tougher for me to come by than some. But I’ll keep trying. “We’re taught to be objective, fair and accurate in journalism school.‚ In the interest of accuracy, it’s never too late to make a correction.‚ I can only hope.”

Earth to Kevin Roy: We’ll be here whenever you return.