Discrimination Case Settled

By Wolper, Allan | Editor & Publisher, October 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

Discrimination Case Settled


Wolper, Allan, Editor & Publisher


ERIC COMPTON, A former Newsday assistant sports editor, has received a cash settlement and withdrew his state discrimination suit against the newspaper.

Compton had rejected a series of cash offers early last June that were at least three times the $27,000 severance to which he was originally entitled.

The agreement between Compton and Newsday was finalized last month just before the two sides were starting a messy arbitration hearing involving alleged racism, sexism, and alleged corporate inspired employee eavesdropping.

"I'm very happy it's over," said Compton, now a sports copy editor with the New York Post."I want to put it all behind me."

Elizabeth Drewry, vice president of employee, labor and public affairs for Newsday, read a statement on behalf of the newsaper:

"The parties have reached an amicable resolution of their differences and have agreed to make no further comment."

The agreement ended 18 months of internal chaos that roiled the Newsday sports department, and generated debates in sports newsrooms around New York City.

But the emotional debate that at one point flared into a 15-person panel discussion at a National Association of Black Journalists convention last year has yet to receive any significant press coverage in New York City.

The only mention of the dispute was a brief item in the Village Voice, the city's major alternative weekly newspaper.

HOW IT BEGAN

Compton was fired in February 1995 after a Newsday sports copy editor wrote an anonymous note to Steve Ruinsky, the sports editor, alleging that Compton had taunted an American-Indian student intern.

The note writer said Compton had suggested that one of his colleagues, Norm Cohen, wear his Chicago Black Hawks jersey to the office to ridicule the young journalist.

Newsday fired Compton, told him he would not receive any severance money and tried to prevent him from receiving unemployment benefits.

The newspaper offered as evidence at the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board hearing the anonymous note written to Ruinsky, but refused to identify the author of the note or call that person as a witness.

Several Newsday sports editors, including Cohen, testified against the newspaper, saying that Compton never made the remarks attributed to him.

Afterwards, the state board judge ruled Newsday had not offered any "credible evidence" to support its charges and awarded Compton his unemployment benefits.

The case dragged on for more than a year as Newsday sports employees tried to learn who had written the anonymous note that got Compton fired.

"The people in sports figured that if it happened to me, it could happen to anyone," Compton said in several interviews prior to the settlement.

Newsday officials at one point acknowledged to E&P that the note had been written by one of two women who worked in sports, Jill Agostino, or Nancy Anderson.

Anderson acknowledged her authorship late last spring when it became apparent that Compton's lawyers were planning to call her to testify at the arbitration hearing.

Agostino, who now is a sports copy editor at the New York Times, and Anderson, who was transferred to the national desk of News day, declined to be interviewed for this article.

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