Elderly Peabody Winner Slams NBC Firing
(CN) - A Peabody Award-winning journalist says in court that NBC News gave him the ax last year as he approached his 70th birthday, replacing him with a "substantially younger" reporter.
As laid out in the Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, Frank Snepp joined NBC in 2005 and won the Peabody Award the next year for his investigative piece "Burning Questions" on the local network KNBC.
That four-segment story exposed the "potentially disastrous environmental features threatening the safety of Playa Vista, one of Southern California's largest commercial-residential projects," according to the complaint.
Since then, Snepp allegedly "participated [in] and/or spearheaded at least 200 investigations involving public matters."
Snepp notes that he came to NBC with a background that included serving as the former chief analyst of North Vietnamese strategy for the CIA in Saigon during the Vietnam War, according to the complaint.
In addition to his status as a published author, Snepp says his articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek and McCall's. Snepp has also taught at University of Southern California and Cal-State University at Long Beach.
"Despite his obvious qualifications and expertise as an investigative reporter and producer, plaintiff's value to defendant NBC News was considerably diminished solely because of his age," the complaint states. "As noted, plaintiff's date of birth is May 3, 1943. It is well-known in the television and news industry that defendant NBC News has fostered a 'youth movement' in recent years."
Snepp notes that his termination in October 2012 at the age of 69 follows the same pattern that local news anchor Paul Moyer faced in 2009 when he was forced out at age 67.
Ageism at the network had been of particular consternation to Snepp, who says he was vocal with his complaints about its handling of the so-called "the gray problem."
"NBC News never adequately addressed these complaints, but held it against plaintiff because he was outspoken and made the protected complaints in the first instance," he says.
Snepp says the investigative reporter or reporters who replaced him are "either under age 40" or "substantially younger than him."
He claims he was fired because of his age and in retaliation for speaking out.
Snepp seeks punitive damages for age discrimination.
Comcast, which bought out General Electric's interest in NBC Universal earlier this year, is named as a defendant.