CNN has settled a lawsuit brought by one of two former producers fired for their role in a report that accused the U.S. military of using nerve gas on Vietnam War defectors.
Jack Smith, who stands by the story, had asked for $6 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. He would not disclose terms of the settlement yesterday but said it "serves as a down payment on restoring my reputation as a journalist and I'll take it as that."
Smith, who now teaches in the political science departments at two Chicago-area universities, told The TV Column, "When your reputation is put through the meat grinder it's hard to put back together again."
A CNN spokeswoman said in a statement, "The case has been settled by mutual agreement of both parties."
The announcement of the settlement came three years to the day after CNN telecast the report on Operation Tailwind to premiere its newsmagazine "NewsStand."
When military experts disputed the claim that lethal nerve gas was used on a Laotian village in 1970 as part of a mission to kill American defectors, the cable news network retracted the story, saying it could not verify its accuracy.
In July 1998, longtime CNN producer Smith and his colleague April Oliver were fired. Oliver settled her suit against CNN last year. The story's on-air reporter, Peter Arnett, was reprimanded; he later left CNN.
Smith's suit for defamation and wrongful termination claimed that "CNN management decided that the Tailwind report, about a covert operation 30 years ago, was not worth jeopardizing its valuable and lucrative contacts with senior military and Pentagon officials."
You won't find "Masterpiece Theatre" on Sundays anymore.
You'll find it on Mondays at 9 p.m. this fall -- opposite "Monday Night Football."
PBS has decided to go ahead with plans to overhaul its prime-time schedule after testing the new lineup in seven markets this past season.
Most noticeable is the move of "Masterpiece Theatre" from its Sunday berth of 30 years, joining NBC and ABC in the exodus of networks from the Sunday movie.
One bit of good news for "MT" fans: "Antiques Roadshow" will be back to Mondays at 8, giving "Masterpiece Theatre" the benefit of the network's most popular show as a lead-in.
"Frontline" was one of the "clear winners" in the test schedule this past season, Wilson said, doing much better at 9 p.m. Thursdays than on Tuesdays. But "Mystery!" is a clear loser -- it's being moved to 10 Thursdays, opposite NBC's "ER."
Debuting on Fridays will be the series "Life 360," which will tell "real stories" because we just don't have enough "real stories."
Friday's "Washington Week in Review" and "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser" remain in their old slots because PBS didn't want to mess with those two series' "very passionate and loyal audiences," Programming Senior Vice President John Wilson said.
The very passionate and loyal "Mystery!" and "Masterpiece Theatre" audiences are apparently more forgiving.
The Maryland chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League wants its members to complain to WJLA about meteorologist Doug Hill serving as emcee of a fundraiser for the Rockville Crisis Pregnancy Center. NARAL called the center a "fake clinic" concealing an "anti-choice and an anti-contraception agenda."
Opening last night's sold-out event at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, Hill described to an audence of about 400 how he became fascinated with the weather. He went on to plug WJLA's "Super Doppler 7" weather tracking system as he stood before a banner showing the faces of 577 children, which center Director Gail Tierney told the crowd represented the number of abortions conducted in the previous 3 1/2 hours.
Hill made no comment onstage about the work of the center.
"By participating in this event, Mr. Hill uses his public persona to further the misleading advertising tactics that fake clinics use and impede a woman's right to medically accurate information about the full range of reproductive options," the NARAL chapter says in an e-mail letter urging members to write a complaint to WJLA General Manager Chris Pike.
Contacted yesterday afternoon, Hill would not speak to The TV Column about his involvement with the fundraiser, saying that all questions should be put to Pike. He said he would call Pike's office and ask that he call The TV Column.
By late yesterday, Pike had not returned numerous calls to his office seeking comment that had been placed since early Wednesday evening.
It is unusual for TV news on-air talent to be given permission by their stations to appear on behalf of an organization that deals with a subject this controversial. Most stations require their on-air talent to get management approval before agreeing to make public appearances on behalf of any organization or group; many stations put that requirement in their contracts.
The Rockville Crisis Pregnancy Center says on its Web site home page that it is "committed to providing a compassionate, non-judgmental environment for women who are uncertain about their pregnancies." It says that "follow-up counseling is provided for women who decide to carry to term and for those who choose termination."
However, elsewhere the Web site states that the center's parent organization, CPC World, does not endorse birth control other than "natural family planning" -- "since chemical and physical forms of contraception are abortifacient by function and design, thus contributing to the total number of abortions around the world."
The Web site states that CPC World is an official outreach of Last Harvest Ministries in Garland, Tex., which between 1984 and 1987 "rescued more than 1,000 babies from abortion."
Kathy Quattrone is quitting Discovery Health Channel after two years -- just four months after being promoted to executive vice president and general manager of the cable network.
It's also a little more than three months since her husband, Mike Quattrone, resigned as executive vice president and general manager of Discovery Channel.
Quattrone told The TV Column they decided to make their weekend house on the Eastern Shore their permanent home and she didn't want to commute.
Her last day at Discovery Health is June 29; no replacement has been named.