Wednesday, April 26, 2000
Channel 5 adds a woman anchor
By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
On the day that Norma Rashid sued WLWT, a new female co-anchor took her place on Channel 5's 11 p.m. news.
Teri Barr, hired from a Green Bay station earlier this month, co-anchored Monday night with Courtis Fuller.
Don't read anything into that, cautioned A. Rabun Matthews, Channel 5 general manager. She was just scheduled as one of our fill-in anchors.
Mr. Matthews said Channel 5 will continue to mix and match anchors at 11 p.m. for May sweeps, the four-week period starting Thursday used to set advertising prices through November.
Lisa Cooney, Mr. Fuller, Ms. Barr and others will be paired with Dave Wagner, he said.
Ms. Rashid, 44, the primary co-anchor since 1983, sued the station and Mr. Matthews in Hamilton County Common Pleas court Monday. She claims she was fired March 14, an unlawful breach of the contract which pays her $275,600, plus a $5,000 annual clothing allowance. It expires on Dec. 31.
The Fort Thomas resident, who has an incurable heart illness called viral cardiomyopathy, also charged Channel 5 with age, sex and disability discrimination.
After the suit was filed, Mr. Matthews denied that Ms. Rashid had been terminated last month, despite sending her a letter stating that her employment was terminated effective April 19.
Mr. Matthews stuck by his guns Tuesday, saying the fill-in anchors are necessary because Ms. Rashid did not return to work. We thought it was going to be Norma (in May), he said.
Enquirering Mind: This Enquirering mind wants to know: What really happened between Ms. Rashid and Channel 5 last month?
I guess we'll find out in court.
It's not unusual for TV and radio stations to dismiss employees before their contract expires, paying them to sit at home.
Channel 5 did the same to Jeff Hirsh in 1997, with more than two years remaining on his contract. When he was offered a job by Channel 12 the next year, he negotiated an early release from his Channel 5 deal.
It's becoming more common for TV personalities to sue, citing age discrimination.
„Donna de Varona, 52, filed a $50-million age- and sex-discrimination suit against ABC Sports earlier this month after the former Olympic swimmer was fired in 1998. She had worked for Disney-owned ABC and ESPN off and on since 1965, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.
„Former Channel 9 anchor Pat Minarcin, 54, sued WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg, Fla., in December, claiming the station fired him because he was too old.
Mr. Minarcin, who won a Peabody Award in 1987 for his Channel 9 investigation of Donald Harvey's murders at old Drake Hospital, was the primary anchor at WTSP-TV from 1994 to 1998. The former Associated Press reporter now supervises police and courts coverage for the Tampa Tribune.
Soap opera: If Ms. Rashid's suit goes to trial, it will be Cincinnati's media trial of the century. (Hey, it's a very young century.)
If she takes the stand, will she explain how the station was retaliating against her for requesting accommodations for her life-threatening heart problem?
Will she be quizzed about her drunken driving arrest a year ago?
Or about rumors of her romance with Charlie Luken when they co-anchored together?
Will Mr. Luken, now Cincinnati's mayor, be required to testify? After all, Ms. Rashid claims Channel 5 treated her differently from similarly situated male employees.
Might her attorney summon the long list of male co-anchors who have been paired with her over the past 17 years at Channel 5 including Channel 9's Clyde Gray and talk show host Jerry Springer?
Will her age discrimination charge result in a parade of Channel 5 female anchors into court to reveal their ages?
It would be a real media circus. For that reason, don't be surprised if this is settled out of court.
Homefront news: Reruns of ABC's old Homefront (1991-93), about soldiers returning home from World War II, arrive on TV Land cable at 6 a.m. Saturday for 48 hours. The 90-minute pilot will air at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The series starred Mimi Kennedy (Dharma & Greg); Kyle Chandler (Early Edition); Kelly Rutherford (Melrose Place, Scream 3); Hattie Winston (Becker, Jackie Brown); David Newsom (Talk to Me); Jessica Steen (Armageddon) and Ken Jenkins (Matewan).
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