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Second Black Journalist At KSHB Let Go After Accusing The TV Station Of Race Discrimination

DeeJackson2018.jpeg
Courtesy of Dee Jackson
Last year, sports anchor Dee Jackson sued KSHB and Scripps Media for race discrimination and retaliation. Earlier this month, KSHB decided not to renew Jackson's contract.

Just over a year after he sued KSHB 41 Action News for race discrimination and retaliation, sports anchor Dee Jackson was let go with no notice.

Jackson said he was out covering a Chiefs practice on Sept. 4 when he got a call to come back to the station, where he was told his contract would not be renewed and that it was his last day. 

"That was a real punch to the gut," he told KCUR.

Though he was not given a reason, which is not required per his contract, Jackson said he was told there had been an internal investigation into discussions he'd had with a former employee about the lawsuit.

Jackson's ongoing race discrimination lawsuit is not the first. Lisa Benson Cooper sued KSHB in 2016. She was general assignment reporter for 14 years before she was fired last year. Cooper lost the race discrimination claim, but won the retaliation claim.

With a recent shake-up in practices and leadership at the station, Jackson said he thought his contract would be renewed.

"With all of the new dedication to equity and inclusion and all the different seminars that the company has implemented since the two lawsuits, I was hopeful that we would be able to get a new contract and start fresh," he said.

Jackson had been a TV sports director in Montgomery, Alabama, for 12 years when he said he was solicited by Channel 41 to join the station as a sports reporter. He said then-news director Carrie Hofmann told him she was trying to line up a replacement for a sports director considering retirement.

He turned down the offer, but he told Hofmann to consider him when the director position became available. Then, Jackson said, he got a second offer, which led him to believe that position would lead eventually to sports director.

'What the station is struggling with is not so much the lack of minorities or the sudden influx, but not having minorities in the right positions, that have say over things. You have to have a diverse management team — black, white, men, women, members of LGBT. If there's no minority voice at the table, that's when you run into these issues. I believe that's what's happened at KSHB.'

He accepted the job, but that promotion never happened. According to the lawsuit, Jackson was passed over twice for sports director, and that it was due, in part, to his race.

The first time he was passed over, the lawsuit said, Hofmann told Jackson she chose someone else to avoid "PR concerns about passing over the old white guy." The second time, according to the suit, Hofmann told Jackson to apply as an external candidate and went with a "never-before-used procedure" to vet the candidates with a hiring team of 12 KSHB staff members before the station ultimately hired another white candidate. 

Jackson told KCUR he would have felt better if KSHB had simply told him he was no longer next in line for a promotion. As it was, he felt like he was "smokescreened."

"My lawsuit is not about who you chose, it's about the process it took for me to get to that position and how things happened in the middle," he said.

Jackson said his experience is a symptom of a deeper issue at KSHB.

"When I started in 2013, I was the only black male working at the station in an on-air capacity," he said.

After Cooper sued for race discrimination in 2016, Jackson said he saw a "sudden influx" of African American employees hired, which he viewed as an over-compensation for the sake of appearances. He added that many of those employees are no longer at the station.

"What the station is struggling with is not so much the lack of minorities or the sudden influx , but (not having) minorities in the right positions, that have say over things," Jackson said. "You have to have a diverse management team — black, white, men, women, members of LGBT. If there's no minority voice at the table, that's when you run into these issues. I believe that's what's happened at KSHB."

A spokesperson for Scripps Media Inc., the parent company of KSHB, told KCUR the company would not comment on personnel matters.

The jury trial is scheduled begin in February next year. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope

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