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American Journalism Review
That's Settled  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   January/February 2003

That's Settled   

Fired St. Louis radio call-in host Charles Jaco reaches a settlement with KMOX-AM's owner, Infinity Broadcasting.

By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at the Washington Post.     

Former KMOX-AM call-in host and reporter Charles Jaco reaches a settlement with Infinity Broadcasting, owner of the St. Louis news/talk station, over his firing in November.

The station had told employees Jaco was terminated for "gross misconduct," and it was seeking to enforce a noncompete clause in his contract that would have kept him from working in St. Louis for six months, says Wade Baughman, attorney for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Jaco, an award-winning journalist and author who covered the gulf war for CNN and describes himself as "brash and opinionated," says the charge could have damaged his reputation nationwide. Under the settlement, KMOX faxed a statement to the Associated Press and local news media saying that "the term 'gross misconduct' was not intended to convey any belief that Mr. Jaco engaged in conduct that was illegal or immoral" and that Jaco disputed the charge.

Jaco, 52, says he will be able to go back to work locally in mid-February and will receive a "satisfying" financial settlement. Station officials decline to discuss the matter, but Jaco acknowledges responding nastily to a couple of e-mails from listeners and being involved in a confrontation in the newsroom.

But, he says, "To my mind, this was just the end result of what happens when a journalist comes in and gets caught in the culture wars of these conservative talk-radio stations," which he says are afraid to alienate fans of such popular hosts as Rush Limbaugh, whose show airs on KMOX.

News Director John Butler, who otherwise would not comment, laughed and said in response, "Take what he says with a grain of salt."

Meanwhile, Jaco is working on a Ph.D. in international relations, writing a biography of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, finishing a book about the politics of oil--and considering on-air jobs in St. Louis and elsewhere.



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