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Mar 15, 2004
Columbia Journalism Review Gives Newsweek and Phillip K. Howard A "DART" for Failing to Disclose Conflict of Interest in "Lawsuit Hell" Cover StoryThe Columbia Journalism Review criticized Newsweek magazine for failing to disclose -- in a recent cover story citing lawsuit abuse -- at least three employee discrimination lawsuits targeting Newsweek's corporate family.
In a letter to Newsweek provided to Columbia Journalism Review, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) identified the three lawsuits, and called on Newsweek to disclose the conflict-of-interest.
According to Columbia Journalism Review, "Darts & Laurels" section, March/April edition:
"[T]he article failed to mention a few related matters -- among them, that … since 1999 Newsweek and its sibling, Post-Newsweek Stations, have been the target of such discrimination lawsuits at least three times. …Had this history been disclosed to readers, they might have been less amazed when the newsmagazine so blatantly took its stand. 'One day, [Americans] may realize,' the article concluded, 'that their right to sue has become a trial for us all.' Or, more accurately, perhaps, all of us at Newsweek."
The December 15th Newsweek cover story, "Lawsuit Hell," extensively quotes Philip K. Howard, a senior attorney at the law firm that represents Newsweek -- Covington & Burling -- but does not disclose that the firm specializes in defending employers against discrimination lawsuits.
According to CJR, "Essentially an amicus brief in the case for so-called tort reform, the article relied heavily on the testimony of one Philip K. Howard, identified as a 'corporate lawyer and civic activist' who has 'devised proposals to save Americans from a legal system gone mad' -- proposals not only to limit damages but also to take some cases out of the hands of courtroom juries entirely."
Of the three employee discrimination lawsuits targeting Post-Newsweek Stations, one resulted in an $8.3 million gender-discrimination jury verdict against the company, and one was resolved in the company's favor. A third case is pending in federal court:
** On September 30, 2003 the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Newsweek, Inc., alleging discrimination against an employee because of his national origin. The EEOC seeks an order requiring the company to implement policies and procedures against discrimination.
** In 2001, Newsweek's parent company, Post-Newsweek Stations Inc., was sued by former WPLG-TV Miami weekend anchor Steve Alvarez for age discrimination. The judge ruled in favor of the company.
** In 1999, Janet Peckinpaugh, a former WFSB-TV Connecticut anchorwoman, won an $8.3 million dollar jury verdict on a gender-discrimination lawsuit against Post-Newsweek Stations Inc.
"The public has the right to know when powerful media corporateers support efforts to take away our legal rights with their own interest at heart," said Jerry Flanagan of FTCR.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information visit us on the web at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org
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