Little Rock Sports Anchor Sues Gannett for Discrimination

By Kevin Eck 

edwards kthvMark C. Nelson, known on-air as Mark Edwards, is suing Gannett Co. and Little Rock CBS affiliate KTHV for discrimination.

According to the lawsuit posted on Courthouse News Service, Gannett, “has a corporate custom, policy, pattern, practice and procedure of not promoting African-Americans to director and leadership positions and utilizing a ‘one-and-done policy’ that disparately impacts African-American employed within the company.”

Edwards says Gannett manipulated focus groups and used “other means and methods” to “achieve its discriminatory goals and objectives.”

Edwards’ bio has been removed from the KTHV website.

The sports anchor said he started at KTHV in 2003 editing and doing production as the “number three” sports guy. When he had the opportunity to leave for an on-air job in Cleveland, Edwards said GM Larry Audas asked him to stay and promised him a promotion and that he would be on a “fast track” to the sports director position.

The complaint continues: “After remaining in employment for several years with the defendant, in approximately May 2012, Wes Moore, a white sports anchor and director, left Channel 11. Plaintiff was in an optimum position to take over as the anchor and sports director with the attendant advertising, marketing, promotion and raise-in-pay that accompanies such advancement within the company. However, rather than offer this opportunity to plaintiff, instead, Channel 11 hired a white male with less sports broadcasting experience from another station in July-August of 2012. For reasons never explained to plaintiff, defendant did not provide plaintiff with an offer to be promoted, marketed or further advanced with the defendant as sports director, or anchor as was promised and represented by him.”

In late 2012, Nelson claims, an Arizona station offered him “a substantial, meaningful and quality promotion, including an increase in pay, benefits privileges and television director and leadership advancement opportunity.”

He claims that Gannett sabotaged that job offer: “(D)efendant concealed from the plaintiff that it retaliated against plaintiff. Defendant willfully and intentionally interfered with the Arizona offer of promotion to plaintiff and the advancement and opportunity for a better employment opportunity in Arizona. Defendant unlawfully retaliated because of plaintiff’s race and in order to depress and keep plaintiff in Arkansas in an unequal and disparate employment setting for African-Americans, which defendant created, implemented and maintained throughout its company.

“Defendant concealed, suppressed and omitted the fact that it had directly and unlawfully communicated with the television station in Arizona and further omitted from plaintiff that defendant had provided false, racial stereotyped information about plaintiff’s employment and work history with defendant. Defendant further manipulated evidence of focus groups to cast a negative impression on African-Americans and perpetuate its racial glass ceiling and denial of advancement opportunities for plaintiff and others similarly situated. Defendant’s unlawful, retaliatory and unfair conduct and actions against the plaintiff terminated the employment opportunity, disparaging plaintiff’s reputation in the television broadcasting community and maintain plaintiff locked in an unequal and disparate employment setting.”

We have asked KTHV for comment and to find out Edwards’ employment status with the station.

[Arkansas TV News]