Lingering Litigation in Kansas City

Two Kansas City television stations seem to be mired in an era of litigation.  Last November three KMBC employees (two anchors and one reporter) filed an age and gender suit. The lawsuit reads, in part:

“The environment at KMBC-TV has transformed over time, from one of cooperation into a hostile environment, permeated with threats, intimidation and disrespect.”

Now, a former manager for the Meredith Corporation-owned KCTV named Francelle Watson says former news director Regent Ducas wore a t-shirt to a news meeting with the following emblazoned upon it (you can fill in the blanks):

“F___ Women, F___ Hispanics, F___ Gays, F____ Blacks.”  If true, this is beyond dismaying.  One assumes there were numerous witnesses?  An article in The Pitch quotes from Watson’s discrimination suit:

“Firings or non-renewal of minority reporter and anchor contracts during the last several  years include on-air personalities Sharita Hutton, Robert Lyles, Michael Scott, Ty Chandler and Ty Wilson.”  Watson was fired in 2008 after more than twenty years at the station.

Ducas arrived in Kansas City in 2002 was credited with revving up KCTV’s ratings before heading for a news director job in Dallas in 2007.  His tenure at the Texas station was brief, and he now works for a media consulting firm called Talent Dynamics.

Ducas was assistant news director at WDIV in Detroit when I worked there from 1998 to 2001.  Speaking for myself, I — a woman of color — found him to be fair and supportive.  On the air and behind the scenes, the WDIV newsroom was fairly reflective of Metro Detroit’s demographics during the period when Ducas and news director Deborah Collura were in charge.  From what I can tell, it continues to be so.

At any rate, as Kansas City newsies know, Watson’s lawsuit is not the first for KCTV.  Age discrimination allegations came to light a few years ago, when former employees Stuart A. Lebow and Tom Talbert sued.  In 2007, Meredith settled with Lebow out of court.  Stephen DeWalt also sued for age discrimination and lost.

So, lingering litigation seems to plague KCTV.  We’ll see how the KMBC case pans out.  Stay tuned.

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