Fields: Channel 7 Could Have Won Mitzel Case

Guest Columnist

If a Miami jury verdict stands, WSVN -Channel 7 will have to pay former healthcare reporter Marilyn Mitzel a cool $1 million.

They fired her because she was too old and no longer a hottie, jurors said.

Matzel:  No Hottie?

What makes this interesting is that there were winning law and facts on WSVN’s side. 

But Channel 7 was either self deluding or too embarrassed to use them.  Thus, they denied that her firing was about her age and weight. 

The truth is that commercial TV News, and Channel 7 in particular, is 90 percent showbiz and 10 percent news content.
The law allows employers to discriminate on the basis of age and appearance if they can show that age and appearance are a necessary part of the job.
Models, strippers and actors come to mind.

If Julia Roberts shows up to the set tipping in at 250 lbs. there’s not much chance they are going forward with her unless it’s “The Kirstie Alley Story”.
In its infancy television news was dominated by former print reporters like Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid

Today it is dominated by beautiful people who were Communications majors in college.  Some would be hard pressed to correctly answer: Which came first, WW I or WW II?
But, with the competition from cable and the Internet, station owners don’t give a damn about experience or quality.  Mitzel, who was the ripe old age of 52 when fired, had both.

Stations are only concerned about demographic targets that they believe require a certain “on camera look for the particular audience.

The winning legal strategy was to show that Channel 7 is a marketing company for advertisers and that market research showed that the overweight and over age Mitzel was unacceptable to their 18-34 target audience.
Her panty line was hurting the bottom line. 
Channel 7 didn’t use that argument,  although I bet their lawyers tried to talk them into it. That strategy rejected, WSVN laughingly argued they were making a news decision.
When Alice Jacobs, the Vice President of WSVN news, used the hackneyed line that the station “wanted to go in the direction of breaking news I knew that Paddy Chayefsky’s prediction in the 1976 movie “Network” had come true.  

The satirical film had a producer wanting to put on a show where terrorists would video themselves robbing banks.  The fictional network of the movie exploited anchor Howard Beale’s mental breakdown by turning it into a show and billing him as The Mad Prophet.

It is all vaguely familiar in WSVN’s “if it bleeds it leads creed. 

When I watch Channel 7, I hear Edward R. Murrow crying.
 But that’s not what I want to hear.
 What I want to hear is Peter Finch as Howard Beale storming into station owner Ed Ansin’s office and screaming: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.


I want to hear WSVN admit what I believe is the truth: They fired Mitzel because she didn’t fit their low brow station’s idea of what viewers want to see.

9 Responses to “Fields: Channel 7 Could Have Won Mitzel Case”

  1. Thunder says:

    Finally agreed with you on something. Have a visit with my shrink tomorrow.

  2. Broward Lawyer says:

    Marilyn once told me that she got a constant stream of fan mail from little old Jewish women in west Broward. Many of them wished that their sons had married a nice Jewish girl like Marilyn.
    The only problem was that Marilyn is a nice German Catholic girl from Minnesota.

  3. Fields Right For Once says:

    I agree with Sam Fields about Mitzel and television.
    Local TV is nothing more than crime reports and pretty faces. There is very little meaningful news, except the weather and sports.

  4. city activist Robert Walsh says:

    Good for Marilyn. I also enjoyed her segments on health issues. Only thing now spend your settlement wisely because now the cat is out of the bag-I hardly doubt any news franchise will hire you ,being what they call a whistleblower. Yes she won her case,its just a double edge sword. Just a reminder when you do file suit against an employer you need to get ready for retaliation. I am happy for her don’t get me wrong,but unfortunately news companies will be hesitat to hire her. Bottom line spend that money wisely. Congrats just the same.

  5. James says:

    Bill & Karen Amlong are good at what they do. But WSVN will probably win on appeal, unless they just decide to cough it up.

  6. Dave E says:

    I think that the target demographic is actually a bit older than the children they think are watching.

  7. Dave E says:

    Ralph Renick

  8. Channel 7 Remembers says:

    Sally Fitz.

  9. JP1 says:

    “The law allows employers to discriminate on the basis of age and appearance if they can show that age and appearance are a necessary part of the job.”

    This is somewhat true, but only if the policy is uniformly adopted. Channel 7 would have to show they have no one over 50 and heavy on the show or does this only apply to females?

    I disagree that their lawyers tried to talk them into it. They would be foolish to use the argument that the news is a marketing company. What a risky legal strategy!

    I also doubt their demographic is 18-34. How many 18 year olds actually watch the news anymore. More likely it is the 50+ men that want to watch the young hotties.