KATV searching for news director following wig controversy

Nick Genty, news director at KATV-Channel 7 since February 2011, is no longer employed at the station.

I asked about Genty’s status last night. John Seabers, senior group manager of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas for Sinclair Broadcasting, owner of KATV, responded:

Nick Genty is no longer at KATV. We do not comment on personnel issues. Our previous statement covers all I will say about the past incident.

Seabers said a search for a new news director had begun. In response to my question about whether there’d been any other personnel changes, he responded:

I will not comment on current status of other employees.

The past incident is a reference to a sight gag — the wearing of wigs last Thursday night by anchor Chris May and meteorologist Barry Brandt. A “return to the 70s,” it was billed, to coincide with the arrival of cooler temperatures. African-Americans, led by Dr. Anika Whitfield, complained about the wigs, saying they resembled Afro hairstyles and were evidence of systemic racism. Defenders of May and Brandt said no racial comment was intended and said white people also had curly hair in the 1970s.

When Whitfield’s initial complaint didn’t get an immediate response from station general manager Mark Rose, she turned to Sinclair. Seabers responded quickly, including to me with this statement:

KATV-7 apologizes for the poor judgement of some members of our news team. Understanding the severity of the situation, we have taken swift action to address it. We apologize to all viewers who were rightfully offended by the segment and we promise to enact and enforce new measures to prevent future incidents from occurring. We remain committed to serving the dynamic and diverse community of Little Rock.

He followed up Wednesday with a Zoom call with Whitfield and others and heard complaints about the wigs, news coverage and other issues. During the call, he and another Sinclair executive repeated apologies; sharply criticized the wig incident, and said “significant” disciplinary actions had been taken, though Seabers said he couldn’t discuss specifics. He and Blaise Labbe of Sinclair said they were particularly disappointed the incident followed by a few weeks a session on racial sensitivity at the station.

Genty, an Arkansas native whose TV journalism career began in 1989, worked 21 years at KTHV, including as executive producer, before joining KATV as news director. I’ve been unable to reach him for comment.





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