Tegna’s largest active shareholder, Standard General, is demanding the station group open its books for an investigation into charges of bias and discrimination. The station group, meanwhile, says the allegations against it are “distorted.”
In a letter filed last week with the SEC, Standard General says it received “a six-page, single-spaced letter detailing further allegations that show ‘the roots of racist behavior within Tegna/Gannett are ugly and run deep,’ reflected in ‘egregious practices within Tegna/Gannett dating back decades.'”
Examples given by Standard General include stories of a Tegna vp in blackface winning a best costume award at an event, an Asian reporter being told “how to apply makeup so her eyes will look more ‘Western’” and Black and Latino on-air employees being “hammered for (their) dialect.”
In response, Tegna told TVSpy in a statement: “Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) continues to be a top priority for Tenga across the company and at our 64 stations around the country.”
“We have made significant progress in recent years, but our record is not perfect,” the statement continued. “However, the distorted picture of Tegna and its stations painted by Standard General to advance its ill-conceived proxy fight will not distract from our significant focus on DE&I as well as our strong financial performance.”
Standard General’s letter to the SEC mirrors a similar letter that the group sent on April 1 to Tegna’s shareholders. In that letter to shareholders, Standard General called for a change in Tegna’s board of directors and targeted current CEO Dave Lougee, who had to apologize earlier this year after a Black executive in consideration for a board position revealed that Lougee had mistaken him for a valet. Standard General has charged that Lougee makes too much money at the company, that the board mishandled the valet incident and that Tegna has spent millions “engaging in personal attacks on Standard General and its founder Soo Kim.”
Tegna has said that it is working to build a “more diverse, equitable and inclusive Tegna,” and that it has established protocols to investigate inappropriate workplace conduct.
“Tegna’s Board of Directors, management team and station leadership continue to take concerted action to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive Tegna—all of which is publicly detailed here: https://www.tegna.com/corporate-social-responsibility/,” the company’s statement said. “We have clear processes for promptly investigating and addressing inappropriate workplace conduct at all levels of the organization. We remain committed to ensuring that Tegna effectively serves and represents all of our communities.”