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A document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week contains a six-page, one-line letter alleging “a broad pattern of bias and racial behavior” among 9News and its parent company, media giant TEGNA .
Alleged problems with the Denver train station are consistently noticeable. “LatinXed: 9News got rid of three Latina reporters, including me, in the past year,” an essay by former 9News employee Lori Lizarraga that Westword published on March 28, 2020, Westword explained the exit of another journalist quoted by Lizarraga 9News: Kristen Aguirre, discharged after suffering a stroke.
The April 8 filing was approved by Standard General, a New York-based investment firm known in the text as “the largest active shareholder in TEGNA Inc.” is called, initiated. in correspondence with the company’s Board of Directors. Standard General, whose CEO and investment manager Soohyung Kim is identified as the author of the article, holds 7 percent of the shares.
The play begins with a reference to “the racially insensitive incident involving Adonis Hoffman and CEO Dave Lougee and the Board’s failure to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the matter.”
Details of this episode were reported by Deadline.com in March during an event the site called the “Proxy Battle for TEGNA”. The company has rejected acquisition offers despite the preferences of some of its privately held investors. A stakeholder – Hedge Fund Standard General – calls for a restructuring of the board of directors and had initially nominated Hoffman for a seat. “Lougee, a white graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder who was 9News manager before being named head of TEGNA in 2017, reportedly landed in the hot seat after news of a 2014 industry event hit the he had confused Hoffman, a “longtime”, fixed point in Washington media and regulatory circles “Who is Black, for a valet who gives him the ticket for his car. Lougee then apologized, but Hoffman withdrew his nomination to TEGNA’s Board of Directors anyway.
The document summarizes the main concerns of Standard General in this excerpt:
• An event where the TEGNA Vice President, who now leads the company’s recruiting efforts, wore a black face at a corporate event disguised as Michael Jackson. Far from being reprimanded, this employee appears to have won an award for wearing best costume and was subsequently promoted to her current leadership role.
• The dismissal of a Latina reporter eleven months after a stroke because she no longer met “9News standards”.
• Termination and non-renewal of prominent Latinx reporters who work at the Denver TEGNA train station primarily for their coverage of immigration issues, including requiring Latinx employees to disclose their own immigration status when broadcasting about such issues.
• An incident where a company’s marketing director explained the use of purple graphics that “African American audiences might like,” referring to “You Know the Like Color Purple (a novel and a movie),” and new themed music as “Street noise” to which she “stamped with hands and feet”.
• A practice of instructing Asian reporters “how to apply makeup to make their eyes look” more western “and black or Latin American on-air workers” hammered “for your dialect.
Note that the person disguised as Michael Jackson was former 9News director Patti Dennis. The occasion was supposedly a Halloween party in the early 1980s.
Kristen Aguirre was fired after suffering a stroke on 9News.
Diversity in the air and behind the scenes has long been the subject of debate on Denver television networks. Journalists of color often complain that they tend to be sidelined in supporting or supporting roles rather than having an equal chance of climbing the ladder – and 9News is no exception.
Granted, 9News’ main anchor has been Adele Arakawa for years. Her first name, however, was Hausser; She adopted the Arakawa designation (her mother’s maiden name) at the suggestion of a former news director in Knoxville, Tennessee, who had reportedly recommended the change as an “ethnic minority.” More common were the experiences of reporter / host TaRhonda Thomas, who spoke to us about the lack of representation of blacks on the Denver radio waves at the time they moved to Philadelphia in 2018.
Denver isn’t the only TEGNA market in the spotlight in the filing. It also mentions lawsuits from color journalists working with branches in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. However, 9News employees show up regularly. Take this email from a former TEGNA reporter: “The main anchor position became available at WXIA in Atlanta and instead of promoting a black employee who would reflect the demographics of the city, a white anchor, Cheryl Preheim, was promoted and out Denver Station. It was unfair because qualified black candidates, one of whom was from Atlanta, were being passed over for this primary role. “
In response to requests for submission, TEGNA spokeswoman Anne Bentley offers the following statement: “Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE & I) remains a top priority for TEGNA throughout the company and at our 64 stations across the country. We have made significant strides in recent years, but our record is not perfect. However, the skewed picture of TEGNA and its stations painted by Standard General to advance his ill-conceived proxy battle is beyond our significant focus on DE&I and our strong financial position are distracting performance. The TEGNA Board of Directors, Management Team and Ward Leadership continue to take concerted action to build a more diverse, equitable and comprehensive TEGNA. All of this is publicly described here. We have clear procedures in place to Promptly investigate and acknowledge inappropriate behavior in the workplace fix We continue to work to ensure that TEGNA effectively serves and represents all of our communities. “
Westword has also reached out to 9News and Standard General for comments on the document. Click here to read Standard General’s SEC filing.
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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990 and has worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.