School of Journalism

UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-COLUMBIA



                               GARY MAITLAND *



                       A Difficult Personnel Problem



     Gary Maitland was a fixture in local television.  At 47, he

had spent over 25 years as a reporter and news anchor.  In many

ways, Gary was the ideal television anchorperson: extremely

attractive with a strong, authoritative vocal style without a

hint of arrogance; warm and friendly, with a quick wit and good

rapport with the station's reporters and other anchorpeople.  He

also had excellent rapport with local and state officials whom he

had often interviewed over the years.  He was the market's most

recognizable and best-liked celebrity.

     Gary has been at WZZP-TV for 2 years as the sole anchor on

its 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, after 12 years as the market's

number-one anchorperson at a rival station, WQQL-TV.  Gary's

defection from WQQL was a highly publicized event, not unlike the

bidding wars which take place for the talents of a free-agent

athlete.  After wavering for months, he signed with WZZP.  In

addition to getting the highest salary in the market for any

radio or television personality, Gary also gained control over

the content of his newscasts and was given the title of Managing

Editor.

     Despite the sweetheart deal and a large-scale promotional

blitz, things did not work out as planned for WZZP management.

     While Gary did bring some of his audience over to WZZP, WQQL

retained its number-one position in both the early and late news.

The first rating book after Gary's switch showed the stations in

a virtual tie in both the early and late news; in all subsequent

reports, WQQL led WZZP by three or four rating points.

     The main reason for WQQL's lead seemed to be the new anchor

team the station brought in: Bill Valentine and Mary McVee, an

extremely attractive, personable, male-female duo who concentrat-



ed on hard news and investigative reporting.  Valentine, who was

African-American, had been a reporter at the station for several

years and McVee, who was white, was new to the market.

     But much of the blame for the falling ratings was placed at

Maitland's feet.  The WZZP news director knew that Gary insisted

that the producers try to select stories for the newscasts that

were soft and that concentrated on good news which celebrated the

market's conservative, mainstream values.  Also, the good-natured

bantering Maitland and other members of the news team enjoyed on

the air at WQQL sounded more like strident antagonism at WZZP.

     Gary's off-air personality also changed.  Claiming "I don't

have time for all that," he refused to participate in station

community-oriented events.  He began showing up in the studio at

the last second before air time and departed the premises within

minutes after the completion of the broadcasts and debriefing

meetings through which he showed his obvious boredom and

displeasure.  Between the early and late news broadcasts, he

would give the late news producer some quick instructions about

the angle he wanted on certain stories and then leave for a

leisurely dinner.  He usually returned with liquor on his breath. 

Twice he had been late for the 11 p.m. newscast, forcing the

producer to forego the pre-show tease and go right to commercials

and the pre-produced show open.  On the rare occasions when he

didn't go out for dinner between shows, he would always have

several beers in the newsroom before the 11:00 p.m. newscast.

     Gary's problems at home had apparently spilled over into his

professional life.  Gary's former wife moved to California,

making it difficult for him to see his two children.  There were

reports that Gary's drinking had become excessive.  Finally, late

on a Tuesday night, a drunk-driving citation that included

abusive behavior toward a female arresting officer confirmed

almost everyone's suspicions: Gary Maitland had a serious

drinking problem; he might even be an alcoholic.

     The general manager of WZZP stayed late on the Wednesday

following Gary's arrest and called Gary into his office the

moment Gary's 11:00 p.m. newscast was over.  The general manager

was furious. He screamed at Gary:

      "I've had it!  This is it!  Look at this item in the paper!

You've made the station look awful! You're fired!  We have a

morals clause in your contract and I'm invoking it.  Your

behavior last night with the cops was totally out of hand.  I got

disturbed at 3:00 a.m. by the police chief screaming at me about

your abuse of the arresting officer.  How dare you try to fondle

that police-woman and then call her every sexist name in the

book.  You're stupid!  Not just last night either; I'm also

firing you for being repeatedly late, which is in clear violation

of your contract.  Your behavior around here has been awful,

moronic.  You're a drunk, Gary, and because your ratings didn't

go up, you've cost me a bundle.  I'm paying you exactly twice the

total that Valentine and McVee are making and you've been

terrible on the air--being nasty to the weather and sports people

and to the reporters, and saying filthy things to your producer. 

You're a creep and we're getting you out of here before we fall

any further in the ratings and get any more bad publicity in the

newspaper!"

     Gary was stunned.  He stammered, "What about my paycheck and

my benefits--my hospitalization?"

     The General Manager was still angry.  "I have no idea. Come

back tomorrow and the business manager will figure all that out.

I don't think you can keep any of those benefits.  Damn you,

you've almost ruined this station!"



                               ASSIGNMENT



1.   List all of the things the general manager did wrong in his

     Wednesday night meeting with Gary Maitland.  What problems

     are likely to be the result of this conversation?

2.   Assuming the Wednesday night conversation did not take place

     (but that all of the facts and accusations are true) and

     that you are WZZP's general manager, which of the following

     options are you going to select in dealing with Gary

     Maitland?  Are there other, better options?

     a.   Terminate Maitland.  Fire him and get his bad attitude

          and influence out of the station as soon as you can get

          the details worked out.  It might be best to let Gary

          get a fresh start in another market, allowing you to

          develop a new strategy against WQQL.  While this course

          is favored by your news director, it has at least two

          drawbacks: (1) If you lose an inevitable court fight

          about invoking the morals clause, you will probably

          have to eat eighteen months of a $350,000-a-year

          contract, and (2) giving up on Gary might reflect

          negatively on the station from a public-relations

          perspective, now that the public knows about Gary's

          drinking problem from the newspaper story.  Paying out

          Gary's expensive contract will also reduce your

          financial ability to employ a two-anchor strategy,

          which your news director is urging.  Even though

          Maitland's contract has a morals clause in it that your

          lawyers believe is enforceable because of the incident

          with the policewoman, invoking it and firing Gary might

          be a problem because if he is an alcoholic, he might be

          considered disabled by a court.  Also, the lawyers

          indicate that you might have to spend almost as much in

          court costs as you would if you paid him off if Gary

          decides to challenge his firing in court.

     b.   Suspend Maitland immediately.  Grant him a paid leave

          of absence and insist that he enter a full-time

          rehabilitation program with the condition that if,

          after a reasonable time he shows improvement, you will

          allow him to resume his duties as an anchorperson, but

          not as managing editor.  During the suspension you can

          try a two-anchor approach in the early and late news.

     c.   Retain Maitland as your main anchorperson and managing

          editor.  You will suggest but not insist that he enroll

          in a rehabilitation program in his off hours, hoping

          that his control over alcoholism will lead to improved

          job performance (and better ratings).

     d.   Overlook this first offense but shift Gary's on-air

          contributions.  The sales department feels taking Gary

          off the air entirely would adversely affect revenue. 

          You could use this incident as an excuse to switch him

          to doing only the early news and try a fresh approach

          in the late news with a new two-person anchor team. 

          This switch would take pressure off Gary and allow him

          to work out his problem on his own.

3.   What are the broader implications of each course of action?

4.   Should the station have a drug-and-alcohol policy?  If so

     what should it be?

5.   Finally, and most important to this case, what are your

     goals in your first conversation with Gary?
* Adapted by Charles Warner from the "Go-Go Giddens" case in Barry Sherman's 

  Telecommunications Management, McGraw-Hill, 1986.



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