Friday, November 17, 2006
Singleton: 'I can't blame' WSLS
A nude photo of weatherman Jamey Singleton that ended up on MySpace ended his job at Channel 10.
Stephanie Klein-Davis | The Roanoke Times
Jamey Singleton was fired as a meteorologist at WSLS because the television station said he violated the morals clause of his contract.
A heroin addiction, a federal drug case and a frenzy of negative publicity were not enough to pull popular WSLS (Channel 10) meteorologist Jamey Singleton from the air.
Factor in a mean MySpace prank, though, and the forecast got much gloomier.
After a former friend posted a nude picture of Singleton, 28, on the Internet this week, Channel 10 management called in the weatherman at 1 p.m. Thursday and fired him.
"What's decent, what's indecent, what shocks and what offends -- that's really up to them," Singleton said at his apartment Thursday evening. "I can't blame them if ... after everything that's happened they said, 'That's the straw that broke the camel's back.' "
Channel 10 interim General Manager Shane Moreland said in a statement Thursday that Singleton broke the morals clause of his contract, which stipulates that he must not be involved in anything deemed "offensive or out of line with community standards."
Moreland declined to comment further.
According to Singleton, the picture was taken as a joke a few months ago at a friend's residence, where he was getting ready for work.
Singleton declined to identify the friend. He said it was not former WSLS meteorologist Marc Lamarre, who was fired for drug use earlier this year.
As Singleton stepped out of the shower, his friend barged in with a digital camera and took a picture of him from the front, fully naked, Singleton said.
"At the time I just chuckled, like, 'Oh, my God.' I didn't ever think that he would keep it and if he did keep it, I never would have thought that he would put it on the Internet," he said.
But the picture was posted on the friend's MySpace page on Tuesday, Singleton said, and the meteorologist quickly began to hear from friends who had seen it.
He notified MySpace and the picture disappeared within an hour.
"But of course, all it takes is one right click and save and someone has it on their computer forever and they can forward it forever," he said.
The picture was e-mailed to several of Singleton's co-workers and to Moreland, Singleton said.
"It's kind of a shocking picture of -- you don't want to see Jamey Singleton getting out of the shower, you want to see him doing the weather," he said.
Singleton's termination from WSLS marks the painful end of a long childhood dream.
Since he was in fifth grade in Franklin County, he longed to be a meteorologist at WSLS, he said. As a middle schooler, he used to visit the studio and watch the newscast.
When he was in high school, bits of his storm footage made it on the air. After he interned at WSLS, a job was still a long shot, but he got it.
Then, in February, news broke that Lamarre, who was lead meteorologist at the time, had suffered an overdose at a South Roanoke apartment and had been addicted to heroin.
Lamarre survived, but two of his suppliers were convicted of federal heroin charges and Singleton admitted that he, too, had been addicted to the drug.
Singleton had already been clean for two months and had made it through rehab, but the news came as a shock to the station.
When they kept him on, the decision was met with both support and anger from viewers.
Management said " 'We know you want help and we're going to help you through this,' and for a company to do that, still to this day, I still think that's awesome for them to have done that," Singleton said.
Singleton said his bosses told him that any anchor would have been fired for the picture and it had nothing to do with drugs.
He said he doesn't know if he believes that but said they broke the news with kindness.
"This wasn't like, 'You're fired,' this was more of like -- it felt like my mom and dad were sitting down with me and talking," he said. "It was emotional. There were tears, there were hugs. There were well-wishes. There was advice exchanged."
Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute in Florida, said she believed WSLS would not have fired Singleton if he'd had a clean record.
Still, she said, on-air journalists are always judged as representatives of their newsrooms.
"If you do something stupid or say something bigoted or do something juvenile, it can come back to haunt you," she said.
"He may be in the circumstance of needing the benefit of the doubt too many times," she added.
Although Singleton said he knows he is to blame for his drug use, he said he did not bring this week's scandal on himself.
He stopped hanging out with some friends after going through rehab to limit bad influences, he said, including the MySpace poster.
"Just basically, I think he got mad and decided that was the way to vent out, and that hurts me a lot," Singleton said. "Part of me wants to think that he didn't realize what he was doing, didn't realize it would go that far.
"The other part wonders if he did realize it."
Singleton said he will not allow his termination to cause a drug relapse. Instead, he will use the support of his family, friends and girlfriend to move forward.
He said he'll get a job that pays the bills, but he will never stop believing that someday he'll make it back on television as a meteorologist.
"In the next few weeks, if I'm not working at a TV station, if I'm not working in weather," he said, "I'm still going to be tracking weather.
"It's going to feel weird watching Channel 10 and seeing some of the graphics that I helped make on the air and some of the ideas that I had on the air. At the same time, it's still rewarding to know that I was able to help out the company in that way."
Then he leaned forward, picked up his remote control and turned on WSLS news.
Staff writer Marques G. Harper contributed to this report.