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Knight Ridder Paper Settles Claims Brought By Former Columnist

Logo - Wall Street JournalMay 15, 2001 | The Wall Street Journal

SAN JOSE, Calif. —  Knight Ridder Inc.’s San Jose Mercury News settled claims brought by a former high tech gossip columnist whose editors took away her column after she made about $9,000 in a stock deal offered by a local executive. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.

Chris Nolan wrote the “Talk is Cheap” column until July 1999, when The Wall Street Journal reported that she purchased at a discount 500 shares of Autoweb.com Inc., an auto shopping Web site, and sold them for a profit when the stock rose after the initial public offering. Ms. Nolan said she told her editor before she purchased the shares and told two other editors after she made the investment. She said that none of them objected at the time. However, an editor later suspended Ms. Nolan, citing an ethical breach. She said the paper docked her pay and moved her to an outlying office.

Ms. Nolan alleged that the Mercury News was retaliating against her for complaining that the newspaper paid female columnists less than their male colleagues. She filed a gender discrimination complaint against the paper with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a grievance with the San Jose Newspaper Guild.  Ms. Nolan, who was seeking $1.5 million in damages, dropped those claims.

“The Mercury News strives to adhere to the highest standards of professional ethical conduct and recognizes that Ms. Nolan does as well,” the newspaper said in a news release on the settlement. Ms. Nolan’s attorney, Terry Gross, said the newspaper’s statement “demonstrates she did nothing wrong and did not violate any ethical principle.”