WOWK-TV Charleston, W.Va., is suing its top anchor, contending Tom McGee refuses to put in a 40-hour work week, won't report, and is insubordinate to station management and rude and abusive to colleagues. McGee denies that and counters that station management has been unstable and hostile, suggesting that the station might want to get rid of him and his high price tag-to top $200K later this year-in preparation for a sale.
TV executives and newspeople are already watching a case filed last year in which WCIA-TV Champaign, Ill., sued married anchors Jerry Slabe and Marta Carreira contending they refused to put in sufficient hours despite their high salaries. The charges are contested.
Agents and station executives have predicted that the issues surrounding anchors' work loads would become more contentious as station belts tighten.
WOWK-TV General Manager Ed Bolling acknowledges McGee's stature but says, "He doesn't go to meetings, he doesn't come to work when we want him to, he refuses to do outside reporting, and he's insubordinate to me and our news director [Dennis Fisher]. If we question where he is and what he's doing, he questions where we were and what we were doing."
McGee acknowledges open criticism of management, but says he has put in many 60- and 70-hour work weeks, reports for specials and anchors three newscasts a day.
McGee was supposed to return from a suspension Monday. "[but] it seems untenable that they would do everything they can to trash me, and then say, Tom, we'll see you back here on Monday.'" There is a one-year noncompete clause in his contract.