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Dave Roepke, Published October 17 2011

Huebner considering age, gender discrimination lawsuit against KVLY

FARGO – Robin Huebner resigned her anchor post Monday at Valley News Live, and the 26-year veteran of local TV newscasts is mulling a lawsuit alleging age and gender discrimination by the station.

Huebner told The Forum she informed management about her plan to leave the station expecting to put in a two-week notice, but she was told it would instead be effective immediately.

She directed all questions about her reason for wanting out of KVLY and KXJB, where she was taken off the 10 p.m. newscast in late August and replaced in the slot by Stephanie Goetz, to Jim Kaster, an employment lawyer from Minneapolis.

Kaster said Huebner had roughly a week ago filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging gender and age discrimination, a step that paves the way for filing a lawsuit accusing the station of the same.

Her lawyer said Huebner had been demoted in such a public way that she felt forced out, adding that she received a significant cut in pay when she was removed from the 10 p.m. newscast.

“It’s been a difficult time for her,” Kaster said. “She didn’t feel like she had any other choice but to resign, under the circumstances.”

The allegations leveled at the station in filings with the EEOC spring from her demotion, claiming that it was done because of “the notion that as men age they get distinguished and as women age they get old,” Kaster said.

Huebner said she wasn’t surprised by the decision to let her go on the spot.

“Their reaction wasn’t my concern,” she said.

Kaster declined to discuss specifics of the allegations prior to the potential filing of a lawsuit. “I think that should wait,” he said.

A phone message left on Monday night for Jim Wareham, general manager of KXJB/KVLY, wasn’t returned. The stations are both operated by a Dallas-based outfit, Hoak Media Corp., which owns KVLY and has a licensing agreement to run KXJB.

Federal law concerning allegations of age bias requires a 60-day delay from the point an administrative claim is filed with the EEOC before a lawsuit is filed, Kaster said, meaning any legal action wouldn’t come for a little less than two months.

In late August, Huebner, 50, was bumped from helming the 10 p.m. newscast with Mike Morken in favor of Goetz, a 26-year-old who was brought over several months prior from WDAY. Huebner was moved to the anchor slot on the 5:30 p.m. KXJB newscast and was also co-anchoring at 6 p.m. on KVLY with Morken.

In a text message to The Forum responding to a request for comment on her predecessor’s resignation, Goetz said: “Robin is a class act through and through, one of the most talented anchors I’ve had the privilege to work alongside. I wish her the very best in her future endeavors.”

Huebner told The Forum she wanted to thank viewers for “their loyalty and kindness” and praised her former co-workers “as a good bunch.”

Morken mentioned her resignation at the end of the 6 p.m. KVLY newscast, prompting an outpouring of support on Huebner’s Facebook profile.

“Very sad to hear VNL has lost another class act,” wrote one supporter, Greg Enkers. “You are one of the best, most professional people I have ever met, and you were a primary reason I tuned in to the news.”

General Manager Charley Johnson submitted his resignation in May of 2010, and Michelle Turnberg was fired a month later. Morning anchor Daron Selvig left his post in May 2011 to work for an engineering consulting firm.

Huebner, who had been at KVLY since 1985, according to her Facebook profile, was voted the best local TV news anchor in a Forum reader survey in 2008.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535