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The Media Eye

It never blinks -- even when we wish it would.

On the surface, Channel 7's insistence upon appealing seems like a one-way ticket to more bad press, which the station received plenty of during the trial. Both the News and the Denver Post covered the proceedings on practically a daily basis, and gave big play to the verdict, as did rival TV stations and both KOA and KHOW, each of which presented live interviews with Minshall. Indeed, pretty much the only major Denver news outlet that didn't offer coverage was Channel 7. Velasquez grants that this choice "has raised some questions" among viewers and Minshall supporters, but says there was nothing nefarious about it. She insists that neither she nor representatives of McGraw-Hill, Channel 7's owner, applied pressure on the news department to impose a Minshall blackout, adding, "There was a lot of discussion prior to the start of the trial among the news managers as to how they should handle this, a lot of back and forth. And as I understand it, they decided that this was a civil matter, not criminal, and involved personnel issues. So they decided not to cover any part of the trial, and after the verdict came out, they felt that because they hadn't covered the trial, they should stick with their original decision and not cover the verdict."

Since other media outlets will have more to cover if the case is appealed, Channel 7 would seem to have an incentive to settle the dispute prior to another trial -- a possibility Minshall says the station's attorneys floated to his lawyer, David Lane, just before the scheduled court date. "They told David, 'Name a number that would make you happy,' and he did -- and we never heard back from them," Minshall says. But Velasquez won't discuss the possibility of a settlement, perhaps because of Channel 7's experiences with a different age-discrimination lawsuit, involving Art Manning, a former account executive. In May 1997, four years after Manning's firing, and less than two months after Minshall's, a federal jury said Manning, who was also represented by Lane, deserved approximately $689,000 in back pay and damages. However, Channel 7 won on appeal, and did so again in U.S. Circuit Court.

The Manning results shouldn't be interpreted to imply that Minshall is doomed; not only are the circumstances of the two cases different, but Manning's case got very little press attention because he wasn't well known, whereas the local celebrity status of Minshall and witnesses such as Clarke, Lynn and Ernie Bjorkman, now an anchor with Channel 2, guarantees ink and airtime down the line.

That line probably won't be a short one. Minshall suspects that the appeals process could take another year or two at minimum, contributing to the financial strain under which he's struggling at present. (He's doing public-relations work these days, and isn't getting rich from it.) But Minshall has more than enough pent-up resentment to keep him going for the long haul. "Here's what Channel 7 faces," he says. "If they settle with me, I'll shut up. And if they don't settle with me, I'm going to spend the rest of my life badmouthing Channel 7. I'll do everything I can to remind people that Channel 7 fired me because of my age, and a jury found they broke the law."

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