JONESBORO, Ark. – A local television station usually responsible for asking questions is being hounded for answers as to why they fired a longtime news anchor but so far, they’ve offered no explanation.
For 15 years, Craig Rickert was the main anchor of Region 8 News’ flagship broadcasts at KAIT – a Raycom Media owned television station based in Jonesboro. Along with Diana Davis, a veteran of the market as well, Rickert was one of the two ‘main anchors’ considered to be the faces of the station’s news division. Sometime in the third full week of April, 2017, that changed.
Rickert anchored his last Region 8 News broadcast on April 19. Following that, all traces of the anchor were erased from kait8.com and the KAIT news app.
At 4:37 p.m. Thursday, April 20, Rickert’s co-anchor for Region 8 News at Ten, Allison Munn, tweeted an unspecific message regarding frustration. The next day, local contacts and news sources were notified that Rickert was no longer with the TV outlet.
Tuesday night, April 25, NEA Report broke the story following several hours of contacts with sources both inside and close to the television station. Rickert was gone and the station management wanted the story to be kept quiet. The public would have other plans once they caught wind of the story.
Almost immediately, tens of thousands reacted to the story in outrage. Hundreds shared it while many more began discussing the instance in the comments. It quickly became NEA Report’s second most viewed story of the year with, so far, over 60,000 clicking onto our website to read the full story. Tens of thousands more have seen the story online (The only story attracting more attention this year was the Randy Orton/fan gym debacle with 200,000 reads).
Since Tuesday, several calls to KAIT News Director Josh White and General Manager Chris Conroy have gone unanswered. Emails and messages requesting comment were also ignored. However, on White’s personal Twitter account, he did post an allusion to “trolls” Tuesday night.
The animated gif image was of Laurence Fishburne’s character of Morpheus from The Matrix motioning for his opponent to ‘bring it on.’ While only White knows who or what this was in reference to, it would serve as an omen for what was to come.
In the minutes, hours, and days following NEA Report’s story, KAIT viewers began voicing their displeasure regarding Rickert’s departure. At first, the posts were on our story but soon, Region 8 News’ Facebook page was being flooded with demands for answers. Almost awkwardly, Region 8 News refused to address the situation and has yet to make any substantive comment. This has seemed to fan the flames of the internet’s desire to get answers.
The situation has begun to resemble a national controversy surrounding Cracker Barrel’s firing of “Brad’s wife.” For those unfamiliar, an 11 year employee was fired without a publicly given reason by the restaurant chain. Cracker Barrel now can’t make a social media post without hundreds demanding answers, often in humorous ways. Quite similarly, every KAIT social media post made since NEA Report’s first story was published has been overwhelmed with comments about Rickert.
More creative followers have even made memes and graphics to post.
The internet’s persistence may be entertaining to most but at least some are not laughing. A number of individuals say they’ve been banned from KAIT’s page following their inquiries and posts. Several others say they received a message stating they can call the station for more information.
NEA Report again called White and Conroy on Friday morning. Conroy’s voicemail said he was out of the office on Friday and he could be reached at email@example.com. A voicemail was left for White which he did not return. We also reached out to Raycom Media Chief Executive Officer Pat LaPlatney but his receptionist said he, too, was off work Friday.
The company is under no legal obligation to explain itself but to an unhappy public filling social media with #WheresCraig, the silence is deafening.
Featured photo from YouTube. Screenshots from Facebook.