WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Contract Disputes Between Local Stations & Young Journalists

Dec 13, 2016

A Michigan television station is suing a young journalist who left the station just one year into his four year contract.  The reporter countered by saying the station is being punitive and engaged in discriminatory practices.

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton was surprised to read about the feud. She said contractual disputes at local television stations are usually resolved behind closed doors.  Crighton also said four years is an unusually long contract for an employee at a smaller market TV station.

Panelist Rich Egger said stations invest time and money in training and promoting their workers and might want to protect that investment, especially given how quickly television reporters try to move on to larger markets. Crighton replied that TV journalists in small markets often receive little pay, have to foot the bill for their own wardrobes, and put in long hours, so she believes they should be free to pursue other opportunities after a couple years. 

Crighton said she broke a contract with a TV station when she came to teach at Western Illinois University.  But she said the station allowed her to break it because she was leaving the field of television.

Egger said he’s never signed a contract for a radio job, and fellow panelist Will Buss said he never signed one during the years he worked as a newspaper reporter.  Buss said the TV industry sometimes struggles to attract talent and he believes restrictive contracts make that task more difficult.

TV and radio reporters are also sometimes required to sign non-compete clauses. Egger feels those clauses are more about management trying to control their workers than about businesses trying to protect an investment. And Buss feels there has been some pushback against non-competes.