Five New York Anchorwomen Sue Charter Communication’s NY1 News Channel Over Age And Gender Bias

'Unseen On TV': Roma Torre, Kristen Shaughnessy, Jeanine Ramirez, Vivian Lee and Amanda Farinacci Courtesy Wigdor LLP

Five anchorwomen at NY1, New York City’s premier 24-hour news channel, have filed an age- and gender-discrimination lawsuit against channel operator Charter Communications, claiming they all have been “repeatedly marginalized and relegated to second-class status” as younger women and men have moved forward.

“Women on TV should accurately reflect women in society and be celebrated at every age, not treated like decoration that can be disposed and replaced with a newer version,” anchors Roma Torre, Kristen Shaughnessy, Jeanine Ramirez, Vivian Lee and Amanda Farinacci said in a statement. “We have poured our hearts and souls into our work at NY1, but in the end we have been left excluded, marginalized and vulnerable. We are fighting for ourselves and all other women who face this same struggle on a daily basis, and we hope to send a clear message to all news media across the country that this must change.”

The plaintiffs range in age from 40-61. Torre is among the channel’s most prominent journalists and among the city’s most recognizable local news personalities. She and the other four plaintiffs penned an open letter explaining their decision to file the suit (read it in full below).

“New Yorkers deserve to have the most talented journalists deliver the news,” said the women’s attorney, Douglas H. Wigdor. “Sadly, after dedicating over 100 years of award-winning journalism to NY1, our five clients have clearly been told that their careers are over, as NY1 seems to believe that younger faces, when it comes to women, are a ‘better look’ for the bottom line.”

Wigdor, who has sued Fox News successfully over similar issues, said his clients will “hold NY1 accountable for their blatant ageist and sexist views and intend to send a message across all media that this epidemic of discrimination toward older women must come to an end.”

In a statement to press today, Charter spokeswoman Maureen Huff noted that more than half of NY1’s on-air talent is female and that more than half is over 40. The Stamford, CT-based company, which will be represented by the Proskauer Rose law firm, added: “We take these allegations seriously, and as we complete our thorough review, we have not found any merit to them. NY1 is a respectful and fair workplace, and we’re committed to providing a work environment in which all our employees are valued and empowered.”

Wigdor fired back at the NY1 statement: “NY1’s contention that ‘more than half of NY1’s on-air talent is female, and that more than half is over 40′ completely misses the point. The question is not how many women there are, but where and when they appear on air. Unfortunately, it is men and younger women that are getting the top anchor positions and time slots while older women are pushed aside and marginalized.” The plaintiffs’ Twitter handle, Wigdor said, is @UnseenWomenOnTV.

The suit, which was filed today in Federal District Court in Manhattan (read it here), seeks a jury trial and claims that the plaintiffs have “each made numerous complaints to management and human resources to address this blatant and ongoing conduct, but they have been ignored, dismissed and disregarded.”

The suit details numerous examples of alleged mistreatment and discrimination, such as Torre complaining to supervisors about “newer, younger staff getting favorable treatment,” to little result. The suit says that Torre told NY1 News Director Anthony Proia that she was being “pushed aside” in favor of male anchor Pat Kiernan “and the younger set.”

The suit continues: “Mr. Proia, implying that Ms. Torre was acting irrationally, responded ‘There isn’t an overall conspiracy. Trust me.'” When Torre later told Proia that she felt she was being “jerked around” and “targeted,” Proia responded, “Those are fighting words, Roma.”

Torre later told NY1 SVP Dan Ronayne, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the older reporters don’t get on the air as much and the younger reporters seem to be on the air all the time.” Torre also expressed concern about retribution and being branded a “complainer.”

“In fact,” the suit continues, “she informed Mr. Ronayne that when she spoke to Mr. Proia, he said I don’t want to hear any more. That’s just the way it is. Too bad. Boo hoo.”

After the suit was filed this morning, the plaintiffs released the following open letter:

We are five award-winning female journalists with more than 100 years of collective experience as anchors and reporters for New York One (“NY1”), the metro-area news channel run by Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”). Today, we filed an age and gender discrimination lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Charter/NY1 because we have been treated like second-class citizens for years. Since filing this lawsuit we have received an enormous amount of support for which we are thankful.

We filed this lawsuit because we have simply been left with no choice — we cannot and will not sit idly by while we are cast aside and our complaints of mistreatment are ignored. While we have poured our hearts and souls into our work, our respective careers have recently taken a sharp decline as we have been confronted with the stark reality of gender discrimination and ageism.

This is hardly a new phenomenon in the news media, and we are not alone. It has been widely reported that older female television journalists often face never-ending hurdles towards advancement and frequently face uphill battles just to maintain the status quo. For that reason, the #SeeHer initiative aimed at ensuring the on-air media accurately reflects women in our society was recently highlighted by the New York Times in a March 11, 2019 article titled “The Fight to Be a Middle-Aged Female News Anchor.” Unfortunately, this form of age and gender discrimination will continue to happen until people stand up and make clear that it will not be tolerated. We have decided to use our voices towards that end. This is a conversation that must happen and must happen now. Because if not now, when?

We have eight daughters amongst us. We have talented younger female colleagues. There are professional young women across the media who will one day reach our age and absent a cultural shift may one day find themselves in an all too familiar situation. We are fighting for any woman who has reached a certain age and has been intentionally marginalized, passed-over and deemed less relevant because of her age. We are fighting for any woman who found themselves signing a severance deal that felt more like hush money, rather than a genuine thank you for years of loyalty and hard work. We are fighting for our colleagues who see what is happening but do not dare speak up for fear of retribution. We are fighting for ourselves and we are fighting for all of them.

In this 21st century, we should be long past the double-standard that allows men to age with gravitas while women are saddled with an expiration date. Women in media should be celebrated for their diversity of experience and wisdom. We should be long past the days that women of a certain age are deemed expendable. We call out all newsrooms nationwide to look in their collective mirror.

Please join us in our campaign to #BroadcastWomen of all ages across the country. You can follow our handle on twitter @UnseenWomenOnTV and join the conversation using the hashtag #BroadcastWomen.

We are not saying anything new. On the contrary, this is #OldNews.

Roma Torre
NY1 since 1992
61 years old

Kristen Shaughnessy
NY1 since 1995
50 years old

Janine Ramirez
Brooklyn Reporter/Anchor
NY1 since 1996
49 years old

Vivian Lee
NY1 since 2008
44 years old

Amanda Farinacci
Staten Island Reporter
NY1 Since 2000
40 years old

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