NEW YORK -- Black journalists said Thursday a discrimination ruling against the New York Daily News, the nation's largest general newspaper, would make other news organizations look hard at the way they treat minorities.
'I think it is a landmark case,' said Albert Fitzpatrick, president of the National Association of Black Journalists.
A federal court jury late Wednesday decided that the Daily News discriminated against four black employees by giving them fewer promotions, less desirable assignments and lower salaries than were given to white journalists with comparable experience and qualifications.
The trial, which began Feb. 9, marked the first time a racial discrimination suit against a major news organization was decided by a jury. Previous cases against The New York Times and other papers were settled out of court.
'I think it's going to have a tremendous impact in the industry in that it will make newspapers and other entities in the media take a look at how they are treating minorities,' Fitzpatrick said.
He said top editors and executives must make a commitment to hiring qualified blacks in all areas.
The Daily News, the nation's largest general newspaper with a daily circulation of 1.3 million copies, said it would appeal.
'The Daily News ... remains convinced that it did not discriminate against four of its black staff members in the late 1970s and early 1980s,' said Jack Dunleavy, assistant to the publisher.
'The News believes its presentation to the federal jury was severely hampered by the trial judge's highly prejudicial rulings, which excluded key witnesses and evidence.'
Fitzpatrick, who also is vice president for minority affairs for the Knight-Ridder newspaper group, said it was obvious that minorities were not fully represented on newspaper staffs. He cited figures released last week by the American Society of Newspaper Editors at its meeting in San Francisco that showed only 6.5 percent minority employment.
'Blacks are under-represented in all areas of the media,' he said. 'We should make sure that we achieve parity in the newsrooms.'
'We think this is a landmark decision and shows that the little people can beat the big people,' said Daniel Alterman, lawyer for the plaintiffs. 'This is the first case that has analyzed the practices of a major metropolitan daily newspaper in the United States and how it discriminates against blacks.
The U.S. District Court jury found the newspaper retaliated against copy editor Causewell Vaughan, reporter David Hardy, reporter Steven Duncan and editor Joan Shepard when they complained of unfair treatment.
The four journalists sought back pay and promotions they said they had been denied. Attorneys said the jury would reconvene Monday to set a timetable for the awarding of damages.