CRAFT, CHRISTINE

U.S. Broadcast Journalist

Christine Craft is a broadcast journalist who will be remembered not for what she said on the air, but rather for what she said, and was said about her, in a federal district courtroom. It was there that she challenged the different standards by which male and female on-air broadcast news anchors were being judged in the U.S. media industries. After graduating from college with a degree in English, Christine Craft spent time as a competitive surfer and classroom teacher.

Her broadcast career did not begin until 1974, when, at age 29, she took a job as a weather reporter with KSBW-TV in Salinas, California. During her tenure at channel 8 in Salinas, as well as her next position at KPIX-TV, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, Craft filled every on-air position in the newsroom, from weather to sports to news reporting.

In 1977, Craft was hired by the CBS television network to do features on women athletes for CBS Sports Spectacular for the segment entitled "Women in Sports." According to Craft, this was her first experience with being "made over," and she hated it. Among the physical characteristics that were altered was her hair, bleached so that she appeared on-camera as a platinum blonde. After a year at CBS, Craft returned to California where she again worked in several news positions including co-anchor for the ABC affiliate in Santa Barbara, KEYT-TV.

Her life inexorably changed when she received a phone call from the Metromedia, Inc. ABC affiliate in Kansas City, KMBC-TV Channel 9. According to Craft, a consulting firm had made a tape of her without her permission or knowledge and marketed it around the country. Executives at KMBC saw the tape, and called her to Kansas City for an interview and audition. Based on her experience at CBS, Craft states that she told the station management that she "showed signs of her age and experience" and was not willing to be made over. She interviewed and auditioned in the KMBC studios, and was hired as co-anchor with a two-year contract. Eight months later, in July 1981, Craft was informed that she had been demoted to reporter because focus group research had indicated that she was "too old, too unattractive and wouldn't defer to men." Craft decided to challenge the action of management, and when asked for a comment on why she was no longer anchor, told a Kansas City newspaper what had occurred.

Craft left the station in Kansas City and returned to television news in Santa Barbara, where for two years she prepared a breach of contract lawsuit against Metromedia. In August 1983 a ten-day trial was held at Federal District Court in Kansas City, at the conclusion of which the jury unanimously returned a verdict in favor of Craft, awarding her $500,000 in damages. United States District Court Judge Joseph E. Stevens, Jr. then threw out the verdict, and called for a second trial in Joplin, Missouri. After a six-day trial in 1984 in Joplin, the jury again returned a verdict in favor of Craft. Metromedia appealed, and the 8th Circuit Court threw out the second verdict. When the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear the case, Craft's years of litigation ended.


Christine Craft
Photo courtesy of Christine Craft

In 1986 Craft wrote Too Old, Too Ugly, Not Deferential to Men about her experiences. She graduated in 1995 from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, and continues to appear as a broadcast journalist on both radio and television, most recently in San Francisco.

-Thomas A. Birk

CHRISTINE CRAFT. Born in 1944. Graduated from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, 1995. Competitive surfer and teache; weather reporter, KSBW-TV, Salinas, California, 1974; reporter KPIX-TV, San Francisco; worked at KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara, California; co-anchor at KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Missouri, 1981; returned briefly to KEYT-TV, 1983; lecturer, 1983-84; talk show host on KFBK-AM in Sacramento, California, since 1991.

PUBLICATIONS

Cristine Craft: An Anchorwoman's Story. Santa Barbara, California: Capra Press, 1986.

Too Old, Too Ugly, Not Deferential to Men. New York: Prima Publishing of St. Martin's, 1986.

FURTHER READING

Smith, S. B. "Television Executives Upset by Kansas City Finding." New York Times, 9 August 1983.

Thornton, M. "Newscaster Wins $500,000." Washington (D.C.) Post, 9 August 1983.

"Woman in TV Sex Bias Suit is Awarded $500,000 by Jury." New York Times, 9 August 1983.

 

See also Anchor