Sex discrimination. If it doesn't happen in New York, it's not news.
I am sitting in Division 10 of the historic Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis, waiting for, arguably, one of the most important verdicts in the country. No national reporter is present. I'm surprised, and angry.
For the past three weeks, I have watched a case that ripped a scab from a wound that has been festering in our national psyche for 50 years: equal pay for equal work. You would think every bit of this case would have drawn the attention of the national media, including a catchy title, The Queen of Beer vs the King of Beers. On one side was elegant Francine Katz, who was the highest paid female executive at Anheuser- Busch, once the world's largest brewery. On the other was the numbered royalty of beer, August Busch, III and August Busch, IV.
Both sides fielded high-profile, articulate legal teams. Katz's Mary Anne Sedey is known as the plaintiffs' attorney employers fear most. Busch's Jim Bennett is brilliant and persuasive. No exception in this case.
To be sure, not all testimony was riveting. But at the heart of this case is an issue that deserves thoughtful dialogue and discussion. That part didn't disappoint.
Was Francine Katz paid less than the highest ranking men at Anheuser-Busch because of her gender? Was the brewery a good old boys' network? Did the bosses give a woman a seat at the table, but not the same access to the company's culture? Or, was Francine Katz a highly and fairly compensated executive who just wanted more? Was her lawsuit an act of ingratitude, as Bennett said in closing, because she was one of the highest paid people in the world for the job she held?
Along with a cadre of other local reporters, I covered the heck out of this. But, weeks later, still no national media in sight and very few mentions, anywhere.
Before the case began I told my friends at CNN and NBC they should cover it. I pitched Huffington Post and Huffpo women, Forbes women, Drudge, and Bloomberg. You name it, I pitched it. You would think Rachel Maddow would have been an easy sell. Her people didn't think so.
No matter what happens when the verdict is read, I strongly believe this case should have been covered, discussed and dissected at every level. What irony. A case that's about discrimination is being discriminated against by my journalism peers.
Why? I think it is because the case didn't happen in New York or Los Angeles. One day before closing arguments, news broke about Executive Editor Jill Abramson being fired from the New York Times. The Abramson case is newsworthy, to be sure. Google her name. You can spend a week reading. But the trial of Katz v. Anheuser- Busch was playing out in real time with eloquent arguments about critical issues from both sides. Not a peep from my colleagues in the big leagues.
Their defenders can cite newsroom budgets. Possibly. But a more likely answer may be that on a national scale, news only really happens in this country when it breaks near an ocean. This case deserved a flood of attention. The national media should be ashamed.