Jepson at last elaborates on WFAA8 dismissal
09/10/08 03:51 PM
By ED BARK
Frankly, a little behind-the-scenes backdrop is necessary before former WFAA8 newswoman Macie Jepson talks more directly about her dismissal from the station after eight years as co-anchor of the weekday 5 p.m. newscasts.
I had been trying to talk directly with her since August 21, when WFAA8 made her the only full-time on-camera casualty among 14 full- and part-time positions eliminated. WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin, in what he unequivocally said would be his only comment, told unclebarky.com that the reductions were "a reflection of very difficult economic times, and we have endeavored to minimize the impact on people."
Jepson's initial comments, on the night of September 2nd, came via an email sent to unclebarky.com and D magazine's blog, Frontburner. We both posted them.
In subsequent phone conversations and emails, Jepson said that she wanted to talk further, but first had to meet with an attorney. She also said it would be fine to have a new digital picture taken of her rather than rely on the old WFAA.com one appearing above.
I waited. But Jepson and her husband, Gary, through whom she clears all comments about WFAA8, have turned out to be agonizingly slow responders. And hard to reach, too. So I finally posed a handful of questions via email on the morning of Sept. 8th.
My introduction read like this: "I haven't heard back from you of late, so I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions via email and then not pester you anymore. Of course it's totally up to you whether you want to answer, but since I told readers that a followup interview was likely, I'd at least like to clarify things if you don't want to comment further. I'd just post something on the order of, 'Macie Jepson has decided not to comment further.' "
Late Tuesday night, an email from Gary Jepson gave his wife's answers to the questions. But he wanted me to "please hold" them until I went to their home on Wednesday to take some previously agreed-upon, but long delayed pictures. He asked if the afternoon would be good. That was fine, I said in a return email sent the same night. But I'd need a time and an address.
I sent a followup email Wednesday morning. No answer. I then left an early afternoon phone message. Still no answer as of Wednesday evening. And this isn't the first time this has happened.
I understand the sensitivity of her situation and wish her well. But enough is enough, and life goes on. As a media person herself, Macie Jepson should be fully aware that at some point you have to cut bait and go with the story. You can't give constant assurances to a reporter and then keep changing course.
So at this point, I'm going to print Macie Jepson's completely on-the-record responses and be done with it. Here's what I asked and here's how she replied:
Are you pursuing legal action against WFAA8?
I won't respond to that question, regardless of the answer. But I can certainly understand why you'd ask.
Was the "layoff" a surprise to you? Did you have any inkling of it? How were you informed?
Surprise? No. Profoundly disappointed? Yes. Management spent many months turning up the heat on my job description and responsibilities. Ironically others weren't held to the same standard. Every time I achieved a goal, the goal changed. I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish as an anchor/reporter whose reporting responsibilities often left me walking into the studio at 4:45 before the news. It took unbelievable teamwork with Jeff (co-anchor Jeff Brady) and the crew to pull it off. At the end of the day my work was very gratifying.
I was informed (of the dismissal) with two short sentences. It took about 15 seconds. Thankfully my dear friends at WFAA have been generous with their calls to check on me.
Are you restricted from working elsewhere in the market because of any non-compete clause?
No, thank goodness. According to Human Resources of course. Again, my (WFAA8) managers didn't have much to say.
Do you hope to work again in television in the D-FW market?
Absolutely. This is my home. My family is here, as well as my husband's.
I used to think that WFAA was the pinnacle of my career. I know I was wrong. I've never worked in a newsroom so full of talent. And I was a part of that. I won't let this "layoff" take away from the fact News 8 at Five never lost a (ratings sweeps) book in 8 years. Not even the darkest days of those years when all resources were put into rebuilding other newscasts and promoting other products.
And my reporting skills garnered Emmy nominations. All, thanks to the unparalleled talent of our photojournalists, editors and producers. I will take the best of the times and not look back on the bad.
And if there's a station in Dallas/Fort Worth that still honors hard work, team work, sincerity and experience, I hope to be back on the air again.