KREM drops longtime news anchor
Woodward says termination ‘was all about salary’ dispute
By Tom Sowa
Veteran Spokane TV news anchor Nadine Woodward said she was targeted for a 15 percent pay cut, then let go when she and management at KREM couldn’t agree on terms.
Woodward, 47, worked for 19 years at KREM, owned by Texas-based Belo Corp. She was the station’s highly visible co-anchor during newscasts at 5, 6, 10 and 11 p.m.
Her last work day was Monday, said station General Manager Jamie Aitken.
“I think it was all about salary,” Woodward said. “Plus I think they could get somebody in there who would work for half my salary. And they could care less. It’s the nature of the business.”
She declined to discuss salary in detail. “I made a decent income,” she added.
Aitken said no replacement has been hired.
“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t come to terms with Nadine and we wish her the best. It’s our policy not to discuss employee issues,” Aitken said in an e-mail to the newspaper.
Woodward was due to renew her five-year contract by Sept. 7. She said Aitken, who came to KREM two years ago, insisted she accept a 15 percent pay cut along with changes to her work schedule.
Woodward said she believes management “thought they had me over a barrel” because her husband, Bruce Felt, was let go by KREM in April. He had worked at the station for 18 years and was a promotion producer, Woodward said. Felt is still out of work, Woodward said.
Initially Woodward told the company she would take a 5 percent cut, the same cut many KREM managers reportedly had to take, Woodward said. That offer was not accepted.
Woodward said she eventually offered to take the 15 percent cut but not with the requirement that she give up a flexible work schedule. Her previous contract allowed her to take Friday nights off, to come in an hour later and to take a two-hour lunch break. “Those were items I negotiated so that I could pick up my kids from school” and allow the family to have dinner together, she said. Until this year, no company managers thought those conditions were unacceptable, she said.
She rejected the latest offer. When her contract expired, KREM gave Woodward a formal letter of termination, she said.
“This could have worked out. But they backed me into a corner and let the clock run out. They basically terminated me.
“I’ve never been treated with more disrespect and dishonor in 25 years in this business,” Woodward added.
Immediate plans are unclear, she said. She asked for but was refused severance pay, she said. She also asked Aitken to release her from a six-month “noncompete” clause that keeps her from working for another TV station here. KREM did not give her that release, she said.
She’s contacted potential employers in the past week. “There are opportunities. But it’s going to take a while before I can exercise any of them if they hold me to my noncompete clause,” she said.
Woodward added she’s consulted a lawyer who told her she has solid grounds to challenge the noncompete portion of the contract.
(Friday, September 11, 2009)