Journalist Settles Age Bias Suit Against NBC

By MATT REYNOLDS

Courthouse News Service (Wednesday, May 11, 2016)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Veteran journalist Frank Snepp has settled claims that he was forced out of NBCUniversal Media's LA news affiliate KNBC-TV because of his age.
   
Snepp filed a notice of settlement on March 28 and NBC asked a judge to dismiss the case on April 18, according to court records at Los Angeles County Superior Court.
     
Late last year, a California state court judge declared a mistrial in the journalist's age discrimination suit against NBC, after a jury deadlocked following three full days of deliberations.
     
Snepp sued NBCUniversal Media and its Los Angeles affiliate KNBC-TV in 2014. The 73-year-old producer and reporter claimed news director Todd Mokhtari and general manager Steve Carlston abruptly fired him from his $120,000-a-year position in October 2012 after he had complained about age discrimination and ageism.
     
Snepp was 69 when he lost his job.
     
After NBC hired him in 2006, the former CIA operative won three Emmys, a Los Angeles Press Club award and a Peabody Award for his investigative reporting at the station.
     
Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2009, and Snepp said the philosophy of the station changed as it addressed declining ratings and pivoted towards a more youthful audience.
     
Along with the rebrand, reporters were given new job titles as "content producers," told to take a more hands-on approach during production and write more stories, the jury heard during the trial.
     
But NBC said there was no evidence that the station had discriminated against Snepp and claimed that he had refused to do assigned production tasks or learn to use a newsroom editing system.
     
Snepp had also worked on HBO movie scripts, television pitches and other side projects while working at NBC, the media company said, including a script based on his book "Irreparable Harm."
     
The book detailed a campaign of retaliation against Snepp for writing the expose "Decent Interval," detailing his time as a CIA operative during the Vietnam War. But Snepp's attorneys argued that the movie projects were "red herrings" that masked the station's discriminatory conduct.
     
Snepp had sought almost $5.5 million in damages. A new trial date of April 18 was taken off the court's calendar.
   
 Snepp's attorneys Suzelle Smith and Ames Magill Smith of Howarth & Smith were not immediately available for comment by phone on Wednesday.
     
Their spokeswoman Kathy Pinckert said she could not disclose how much the journalist had settled the case for.
     
"The matter was resolved," Pinckert said.
   
 During a brief phone interview, NBC's attorney Bart Williams, with the firm Proskauer, also said he could not disclose the terms of the settlement.