Lawsuits reveal a time of turbulence at KCTV
A gain in ratings came at a high human cost in the newsroom, court filings indicate.
By AARON BARNHART
The Kansas City Star
Recent lawsuits have shed new light on the dramatic makeover that turned “KCTV-5 News at 10” into the most-watched newscast in town.
KCTV, the CBS affiliate owned by Iowa-based Meredith Corp., had long been called a “country club” both by outsiders and the veteran journalists who toiled comfortably there.
In 2001, however, sagging ratings brought new management and a bruising culture change. All but a handful of on-air talent was replaced. The unobtrusive style of KCTV newscasts was replaced with a hard-charging approach characterized by the slogan “Live. Late-Breaking. Investigative.” The makeover catapulted KCTV back into the ratings race.
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas from 2005 to 2007 allege, however, that this turnaround came at a high human cost.
Stuart A. Lebow, who directed newscasts at KCTV from 1996 to 2003, said that age discrimination and harassment were widespread inside the newsroom during this period, resulting in dozens of older staffers leaving.
According to Lebow’s lawsuit, senior employees were singled out for criticism, reassigned to less desirable shifts and generally treated differently from younger, more recent hires.
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