A fired WUTC reporter has reached a $50,000 settlement with UTC.
“I am satisfied with the settlement and look forward to the next chapter of my life,” former WUTC reporter Jacqui Helbert said in a prepared statement. “I harbor no ill will toward WUTC, UTC or anyone associated with them.”
Helbert was fired March 21 after she reported a story about a high school gay-straight alliance that visited lawmakers in Nashville to discuss proposed “bathroom bill” legislation.
She said she went there wearing press credentials and full radio gear, but she didn’t explicitly identify herself as a reporter to lawmakers.
Some UTC officials and state legislators were upset that she didn’t clearly identify herself.
Helbert’s lawsuit claimed that she was fired in retaliation for her involvement in a story about the Tennessee Legislature’s bill, which would have required students to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their original birth certificate. The legislation didn’t pass.
The suit also alleged that UTC gave in to legislative pressure and terminated her employment.
UTC Chancellor Steve Angle said that UTC values WUTC’s editorial independence and high journalistic standards of ethics.
“I have made that commitment clear to both the university community and to WUTC employees,” he also said, according to a news release. “Further, our commitment to both issues can be seen in the WUTC editorial integrity policy.”
UTC denied any liability, and the settlement resolves Helbert’s claim, according to a news release.
The settlement money will be funded by UTC.
Helbert, her attorney and university officials will not comment on the settlement itself beyond the statement, also according to the news release.
I hope that WUTC will continue to address and clarify the editorial independence of WUTC and its staff. That way, the ability of reporters, especially those who work for university-owned media stations, to report accurate news is unencumbered by popular opinion and marketing. These matters are critically important to me, to a free press, and I will continue to advocate for editorial integrity and firewalls between the editorial and marketing functions of university-owned radio stations.