30 Years Ago in News History: Christine Craft and the Beauty of News
In 1981, reporter Christine Craft shined a spotlight on the unfair treatment of female journalists when she filed a lawsuit against her former employer — an ABC affiliate station in Kansas City, Mo. — for age and sexual discrimination.
Craft began her career as a television weather reporter in 1974. In 1977, she landed a job on "CBS Sports Spectacular" doing features on female athletes. CBS required her to bleach her dark hair platinum blonde and change her wardrobe and makeup for the show.
Craft was recruited in 1981 by KMBC-TV in Kansas City to be co-anchor of the nightly news. Having disliked her makeover experience at CBS, she told the station that she was unwilling to alter her appearance.
KMBC saw a jump in ratings after Craft joined the nightly news team. But eight months into her two-year contract, she was demoted to reporter. A research focus group had judged Craft as "too old, too unattractive and not deferential to men."
Craft refused to accept the demotion and sued Metromedia Inc., owner of KMBC-TV. She noted in her lawsuit that the station paid her male colleague $80,000 a year, while she earned $35,000 for the same job.
Two juries awarded her damages. The first verdict was overturned; the second was reversed on appeal. The legal battle ended in 1986, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her case.
Following the lawsuit, Craft attended law school, wrote a book about her experience and returned to reporting in her home state of California. She currently hosts a radio show part time in San Francisco.
Craft's story is featured in the News Corporation News History Gallery.Related Links: