"What's black and white and read all over?"

Monday, April 17, 2006
Posted 11:46 AM by

Yet another reason why Knight Ridder sucked

Former Times Leader editor Allison Walzer, my ex-boss, is now suing that paper in federal court, arguing she was fired because she's a Jewish female, not because she forced other people to quit under orders from the publisher.Sorry I haven't written sooner folks. I didn't intend to take the holiday off. Blogger's database conked out on Saturday and I just got it back now.

Any rumors of my early demise at the hands of a Northeastern Pennsylvania hitman are not true.

I am tired, not dirt nap sleepy though, so I'll keep this one short and sweet. It's all about bean-counting corporate journalism at its finest.

My ex-boss at the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, former editor Allison Walzer, is now suing that paper in U.S. District Court for more than $150,000 for wrongful dismissal, back pay, damages and reinstatement. She's arguing she was fired because she's a woman and Jewish.

Publisher Pat McHugh fired Walzer on January 12, 2005, citing as the reason that the paper's photography team leader, Clark Van Orden, had taken personal photographs of her kids, the lawsuit says.

In December 2004, Walzer asked McHugh to promote her from Senior Vice President to Executive Vice President, according to the suit. McHugh denied the request saying Knight Ridder told him The Times Leader was too heavy on titles. However, when he replaced Walzer, "McHugh gave the new editor - a Catholic male, like McHugh - the title Executive Vice President."

Now, here's the fun part:

The suit also says that in the six years she and McHugh worked together, he told her "how he managed the 'creative discharge' of several female employees. He explained that 'creative discharge' involved offering women jobs that he knew they did not want or would be unqualified to perform which forced them to resign as a result. Ms. Walzer knows of at least three such 'discharges.' In one case, Mr. McHugh ordered Ms. Walzer to take one of these women into the newsroom and 'get her to quit.' "

Nothing like a little scorched Earth policy.

My editor before Walzer, the great Jim Sachetti at the Press-Enterprise in Bloomsburg, once taught me that any manager can be sued if they say something negative about a person they fired.

Instead, whenever he got a call for a recommendation about a dismissed former employee he'd just put the phone down for a minute, pick it up and say, "You got all that."

I'm with Jim on this. So my opinion won't be posted here.

But I will say this. When I left the paper after being its county political reporter and online editor, Allison had a little party in the newsroom and got me a cake. As she handed me the knife to cut it, she said, "Wouldn't you like to plunge this in my back?"

Here's wishing Allison luck. Of course, the deep Knight Ridder pockets are long gone, as the TL has been sold off along with the Philly Inquirer and Daily News.

Walzer knows a thing or two about deep pockets.

According to her lawsuit, she made $234,622 in 2003 at a time when newsroom budgets were being slashed and newspaper circulation fell. Perhaps that's why her pay dropped the next year to $142,244 plus a $50,000 bonus.

Walzer also has an ample supply of Knight Ridder stock too, thanks to threatening the company previously with a lawsuit when she was passed over for promotion to publisher 11 years ago.


I grabbed a copy of Walzer's lawsuit in pdf format from The Times Leader's Web site just in case it lapses off their server soon. To read it, click here.


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