Gannett Co. and its midwestern newspaper The Indianapolis Star were named in a lawsuit charging the two with religious, race and age discrimination. Two former editorial writers, James Patterson and Lisa Coffey, both filed suit on June 15 in federal court. The lawsuit says their illustrious careers were cut short by an unwarranted termination and demotion. The 30-page suit also goes into great detail about how the paper was drastically changed after the once family owned newspaper was bought from Gannett.
"Lisa and I aren't the only employees that have been driven away," Patterson told a local television crew. Patterson (who is black) and Coffey (who is white) make numerous complaints, including that the paper wants to get rid of any employees who express religious beliefs. Both say the newspaper was once free and proud to express itself, although known for being conservative. But since Gannett bought the paper five years ago, the lawsuit says the editorial staff has been forced to make big changes.
"The goal appears to be to remove from employment at the Star persons who have strong religious beliefs, and we believe that violates the law," said John Price, an attorney for the writers. In response, Star representative Al Zoibi issued a statement saying the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission already investigated and dismissed similar charges by Patterson and Coffey.
"We do not discriminate," Zoibi said.
Although the nation's largest newspaper chain still has about a week to respond to the lawsuit, no date has been set for the case to go to court.