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KHON-TV Loses Lawsuit
Honolulu— KHON-TV violated the rights of reporter Mary Zanakis when it reassigned her following a maternity leave and later fired her, a federal jury found last week.
Zanakis was awarded $87,000 in actual damages under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The judge in the case will decide whether she should be reinstated or is entitled to damages, which Zanakis has estimated at $770,000.
Kate Healey, a spokeswoman for station owner Emmis, said, "We're shocked at the decision. We believe we provided substantial evidence to the jury—including many credible witnesses—while the plaintiff provided none. We are seriously evaluating our appeal options."
The defense did put former colleagues of Zanakis on the stand during the high-profile two-week trial. Among them was popular local anchor Joe Moore, who told the jury that Zanakis's work suffered following the maternity leave. The station argued that decisions regarding Zanakis were based on budget cuts and on what it felt was a drop in the quality of her work.
Zanakis's attorney, and former husband, Thomas Pico said he countered such testimony "with video showing she was doing a good job" and added, "I don't see any basis for appeal." No offers to settle the case without further court proceedings had been made last week, he said.
South Bend, Ind.— The TV reporter who says she was shoved by the chairman of the Notre Dame University board that owns her station decided against filing charges.
Bonnie Druker had filed a police report stating that she and WSBT-TV reporter Jennifer Kuk had been shoved by Father Timothy Scully, who got angry about their parking illegally outside a mass for a Notre Dame student who has been missing for weeks (B&C, 1/27, p.13). Scully also told Druker that he was her boss, she says—a reminder she felt she did not need.
Druker says Scully's in-person apology was sincere and was a determining factor in deciding against pursuing charges, civilly or criminally. Her station, she said, was supportive and did not pressure her to drop the investigation. Although the incident upset her, she says, she had no interest in suing for financial gain and plans to continue at the station. Any damage to Scully's career, she said—he was considered a candidate for top university spots, according to local media—"was done by Father Scully, not by me."
Tribune Says Sí
New York— Tribune's WPIX-TV's WB11 News at Ten, will begin a simultaneous Spanish translation on the Second Audio Program (SAP) Feb. 3. The station says it is the first for a New York English-language news program and "is prompted by the rapid growth in the Hispanic population in the New York area." WPIX Vice President and General Manager Betty Ellen Berlamino called the move "good community service and good business." She noted that hers will be the only prime time newscast in the New York area available in Spanish. Marketers will have the option of submitting a Spanish translation of their commercials, the station said. Pontiac will be the initial sponsor for the translation, which will be done by Caption Colorado.
Boston— WCVB-TV plans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the "Blizzard of '78" with a prime time special Friday, Feb. 7, hosted by meteorologists Dick Albert and Harvey Leonard. The Blizzard of '78: Storm of a Century will include archival footage and personal remembrances.
More Storm Watch
Chicago— WGN-TV plans to debut what it calls "the Midwest's most comprehensive [weather] center" in the spring. The center will feature upgraded technology and graphics and will be headed by the station's weather anchor, Tom Skilling.
Tribune's News VP
Veteran Washington journalist and Tribune's TV bureau chief there, Cissy Baker, was named vice president of Tribune's news operation last week. Baker says she'll continue to oversee the bureau as well, although she'll likely delegate some duties. Tribune also promoted Rick Felty, who has been director of creative services, to vice president.