Pat Kiernan wanted the bagels. It was January 15, 2020 — National Bagel Day — and the crew of NY1’s morning show, Mornings on 1, had already pillaged the breakfast platter in the control room when word came down that it was being requested on set. The bagels had been sent to weekend anchor Kristen Shaughnessy, but Kiernan didn’t ask where they’d come from until he and his co-anchors were under the lights, ready to go live. “The second he heard that it was Kristen, it was like, Do not touch — it’s poison,” says a colleague. “They literally dropped the bagels,” says a former producer.
Shaughnessy and Kiernan had worked together at NY1 for more than two decades. On 9/11, Shaughnessy reported live with Kiernan as the south tower collapsed, Kiernan from the anchor desk, Shaughnessy from outside the World Trade Center. They were both part of the ragtag team hired at the 24-hour local-news station in the ’90s, when NY1 seemed like a launchpad for a sparkling career in broadcast journalism. The news team was young back then: Shaughnessy and Kiernan were in their 20s; their managers were barely over 30. They were cub reporters convinced they weren’t simply doing a job but performing a public service. It felt like a family.
Viewers were still buying into the camaraderie years after the chummy vibe had begun to dissipate behind the scenes, the launchpad morphing into something of a professional flytrap. To watch NY1 — at home or in a laundromat, a nail salon, or the waiting room of a doctor’s office — and recognize its faces was to be a true New Yorker. Sure, the major networks had fancy studios and flattering lighting, but NY1 was where New Yorkers learned about a delay on the Q train and had the day’s headlines read to them as they swigged their coffee. NY1 wasn’t polished, but it made good on its promise: hyperlocal news delivered by someone who could very well live in your neighborhood.
Then, in 2019, the public illusion of the NY1 family blew up. Shaughnessy and co-anchors Roma Torre, Amanda Farinacci, Vivian Lee, and Jeanine Ramirez sued NY1’s parent company, Charter Communications, for age and gender discrimination. All five women, who ranged in age from 40 to 61 at the time, claimed they had been pushed aside in favor of younger, less experienced (and presumably cheaper) talent — mostly women in their 20s and 30s, the same ages they had been when they were hired. Kiernan, now 52, was used as a benchmark; it was alleged that he made significantly more money than Torre despite having similar responsibilities and was given more resources. The drama played out in the newsroom — hence the bagel incident — and in the city tabloids.
The allegations in the lawsuit were damning but not shocking. TV has always been a brutal business for women, particularly women over 40. It’s no coincidence that 75 percent of broadcast news is reported by men and that roughly two-thirds of prime-time-TV news shows feature male anchors and correspondents, per an analysis by the Women’s Media Center. But the real damage was in the details. The drama around the lawsuit revealed not simply sexism at the station but a sharp-elbowed culture in which the rewards were meager and the egos outsize. The sense that only a chosen few would get to shine turned a once-collegial news channel into a den of vipers.
NY1 launched in 1992, the brainchild of then–Time Warner Cable executive Dick Aurelio, a former deputy mayor of New York who had worked as a reporter and editor for Newsday in the 1950s. Aurelio imagined a station with editorial judgments “based on the relevance of the news to our New York City viewers” and “not driven by ratings or sensationalism,” as he wrote in an early memo. NY1 would cover the city the way the big networks couldn’t — diving deep into education, theater, crime, and politics. It would come to serve a more practical purpose as a retention tool for Time Warner Cable customers. “Everyone hated the cable company, but they loved NY1,” says Steve Paulus, a lifelong New Yorker who, along with Paul Sagan, was tapped by Aurelio to get the station off the ground. When competing cable companies came knocking, “Time Warner Cable’s primary message to subscribers was ‘They don’t have NY1.’ ”
Since it was (and still is) funded by cable subscriptions, its journalists were freer to report on topics that weren’t a ratings hit. “We did live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the City Council hearings on the creation of the Civilian Complaint Review Board,” says Dan Jacobson, who joined NY1 that first year and eventually became news director. Aurelio later described NY1 as “a gift to the people of New York.”
Compared with the big networks, the pay was bad. Initially, on-air reporters made as little as $32,000 a year. But NY1 had the draw of being a small station in the media capital of the world. Instead of slogging away in Cincinnati or Rochester, young journalists got to cut their teeth in New York. Before NY1, “you had to be in the business for years to get to being a producer — or an anchor, for goodness’ sake. And here, for the first time in New York City, you had people with little to no experience on air,” says Cheryl Wills, who started at the station in 1992, as did Torre, NY1’s first on-air hire. Three years later, Shaughnessy was hired as a weekend anchor and reporter. Ramirez became the Brooklyn reporter soon after. In 1997, Kiernan, who is Canadian, was brought over from Time Inc., where he had been hosting a business show for Fortune.
“NY1 had the reputation as the scrappy news start-up,” says Kiernan. “You knew what you were getting into.” Reporters worked long nights and holidays, delivering no-fuss news with local-access-style graphics. They hauled their own gear and were taught to shoot footage on what were then considered compact cameras but today would be about as modern as Zack Morris’s cell phone. Sagan hired producer Michael Rosenblum to train staffers in his video-storytelling method: Reporters would shoot a series of takes on the premise that “you can build any story by adding narration and a sound bite,” according to a 1992 piece in now-defunct Millimeter magazine that ran with the subtitle “NY1 Radicalizes the Way News Is Made.” (To put that in perspective: The article noted that having journalists shoot on the fly was the news media’s answer to the success of the hot new show America’s Funniest Home Videos.)
On-air talent didn’t just shoot their own footage; they also did their own hair and makeup. “We didn’t care much about aesthetics,” says a former producer. “Our anchors and reporters looked and sounded like the people who watched them. Amanda Farinacci? Italian girl from Staten Island. Jeanine Ramirez? She’s Brooklyn, Puerto Rican … Back in the day, it was Vivian Lee, who would put her hair up in a clip and maybe put on a little eye shadow. But that’s about as good as you’d get at 5:30 in the fucking morning.”
“I valued a reporter who could ad-lib for an hour on a breaking news story over what they looked like,” Paulus says.
Eventually, Kiernan and Torre became two of the channel’s most prominent figures, with Kiernan anchoring the morning broadcast and Torre taking over the political program Inside City Hall before becoming midday anchor and theater critic. Kiernan gained notoriety as the guy who read the newspapers on air. (Paulus got the idea from watching Regis Philbin.) “There was a sense of, We’re all doing something new here together, and we are going to get this done by working harder than everybody else,” says Kiernan. “That mentality served us well for many years. But ultimately, we grew up.”
Hollywood writers and producers began casting NY1 anchors — often Kiernan, but Torre and other talent, too — in order to convey an authentic New Yorker–ness. The movie stuff was mostly accidental (“A funny sideline,” says Kiernan), but it raised profiles, mainly his. In 2011, he pissed off management when he told New York that he had thought of NY1 as “a stepping-stone.” He went on to play himself in The Avengers and Iron Man 3. He also auditioned — and publicly campaigned, unsuccessfully — to take over for Philbin when the longtime host announced his retirement.
Several current and former colleagues of Kiernan’s — of the 51 who were interviewed for this story, most requesting anonymity because the media world is small and retributive — say Kiernan became increasingly difficult to work with around this time. Margaret Menefee, a former writer and producer at NY1, says there were “incidents where he berated people kind of harshly.” As multiple colleagues tell it, one particularly memorable blowup was aimed at executive producer Leslie Martelli-Hines, allegedly after she and Kiernan disagreed on where to send a reporter. When Martelli-Hines walked away, they say, Kiernan came up close behind her, shouting. “So Leslie goes into the women’s restroom, thinking, Of course he’s not going to follow me, and he followed her to the women’s restroom and stood out there in the hallway stalking her, waiting for her to come out,” says a former producer. “It was extremely intimidating,” says another witness. (Martelli-Hines, who left NY1 in 2017 after 21 years, declined to be interviewed. Kiernan claims he never followed her.) On another occasion, a producer “made the cardinal sin” of telling Kiernan to wrap. “We were trained, ‘Don’t you dare wrap Pat Kiernan,’ ” says a former staffer. When they cut to a commercial, “Pat struts out of his anchor chair … He hovered over her and just verbally castrated her.”
Kiernan, as far as anybody knows, never apologized to Martelli-Hines, probably because he didn’t have to. Nobody knocks Kiernan’s work ethic; even those who don’t like him personally acknowledge that “he’s really, really good” at his job. But colleagues say he became the unofficial ruler of the newsroom. They were afraid to stand up to him because “you know that no matter what your response is to Pat — no matter how mild it is — it’s your ass,” says a former producer. “Pat Kiernan is not going to be reprimanded. Pat Kiernan does not suffer consequences.”
“He was a diva,” says Menefee. “I don’t know how else to put that. He liked things a certain way, and if they’re not what he wanted, he was very vocal about that.”
Paulus insists he never gave in to what he calls the “star system” he’d seen in his network days. “I told Pat, ‘You know, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, they’re going to turn on NY1 to see what the time and temperature is, even if you’re not there,’ ” he says. But Paulus acknowledges that, eventually, Kiernan did outearn his fellow anchors — even those who had been there longer. “The bottom line is the mornings were the most-viewed time period for us, so they generated the most revenue, and his compensation reflected that. Did he make more money? Yes, he did. Did he deserve more money? I don’t know. It’s a tough one.”
As a hierarchy formed and the culture at NY1 was changing, so too was the cable-television industry it relied on. Cable-TV subscriptions in the U.S. peaked around 2010, then began to rapidly slide. By 2014, with fewer subscribers, Time Warner Cable was in talks with Comcast about a merger. When the deal fell through, “all of a sudden, in came the smaller cable companies going to buy the bigger cable company — God help us,” says Paulus. Led by chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge, Charter ultimately bought Time Warner Cable and, with it, NY1 in 2016 for $56 billion.
Initially, NY1’s managers were relieved. Before Charter, Rutledge was COO of Cablevision, which had its own 24-hour local-news stations in the New York area; prior to that, he had been president of Time Warner Cable. With an executive in place who “got it,” Paulus says, “we basically thought everything was going to be sort of status quo.”
Instead, Charter brought in new management, including Michael Bair, who had most recently worked as CEO of the Bleachers Corporation, a sports-streaming start-up. Bair laid out a plan that focused on multi-platform coverage, such as a news app and podcasts, and more live programming, including a three-hour morning show. He also turned his attention toward the staff. “We had to start looking around at the management team and say, ‘Okay, who’s really resilient and adaptable? And who really believes in this too?’ ” Bair says.
“In my sour-grapes mode, I’ll say he co-opted the business,” Paulus says of Bair’s approach. “He thought that the way to get to where he wanted to go and become a profit center for the company was ‘We’ll do live TV. We’ll make it the Today show of New York City.’ ” Paulus and Jacobson, the news director, soon found themselves iced out of discussions about programming. They were the old guard, the purists still clinging to the notion that they were public servants. Jacobson got a whiff of changes coming down the line, he says, when Bair suggested sending Kiernan to the 2016 U.S. Open to do “funny, odd things,” as if it were a late-night bit, an idea he says Kiernan was into. “Pat? Oh yeah, he loved the attention.” (A Charter spokesperson denies that Bair asked Kiernan to do anything “funny.”)
“I probably could have done a better job in general with it,” Bair says of the management transition. For Jacobson, the writing was on the wall — which he was suddenly much closer to after his desk was moved from the center of the newsroom to a corner by the supply closet. Paulus got the ax and soon, too, did dozens of other longtime employees, many of them over the age of 40. “By all indications, they were into a youth movement, both in management and on air,” Jacobson says. Paulus is more dramatic: “There was a bloodbath at the station. They fired everybody who had any experience.”
NY1 executives also cut various longtime shows, including The Call — a viewer call-in show that had been popular with die-hard NY1 fans but was otherwise underperforming. Aurelio bristled at the cancellations, accusing Charter of “abandoning their commitment to the city.” But not everyone was disappointed. The station had outgrown Paulus’s loose management style. He had run the newsroom “like a college club,” says a current employee — an approach put on public display in 2010, when former anchor Adele Sammarco took NY1 to court after she claimed she had been wrongfully fired a decade earlier. During the trial (she had rejected a $200,000 settlement to pursue her claim), it was revealed that a male colleague had hung an altered photo of her with enlarged breasts in the newsroom. (The mostly male jury sided with NY1 and its defense that the behavior wasn’t sexual harassment because Sammarco had laughed about it at the time.) Shaughnessy and Torre testified for NY1, speaking against their female colleague.
It was hard to blame Charter for trying something new. NY1 is a beacon in local news, but it is still local news, accessed via a cable network — a dying industry within a dying industry. By 2015, the year before the merger, cord-cutting had picked up, and since then, it has only gotten worse for cable companies; in the past six years, the number of Americans who say they watch TV via cable or satellite has dropped from 76 percent to 56 percent, and roughly two-thirds of 18-to-29-year-olds have either ditched cable or satellite or never signed up in the first place. The median age for cable viewers is now around 60. Some of NY1’s longtime talent, the ones who remained, anyway, recognized that it was time to evolve. “Change in a family dynamic is never fun,” says Wills, 54, one of the few veterans who benefited from the merger; she was promoted from weekend anchor to prime-time news anchor and made the host of her own public-affairs show. “I’m not going to pretend it’s been a walk in the park for everyone. Some people left angrily. But sometimes things change.”
NY1 plucked Anthony Proia from Time Warner Cable’s operation upstate to run the newsroom. Melissa Rabinovich, who had overseen NY1’s Queens and Staten Island coverage, dubbed Local Edition, was promoted to assistant news director. Before the merger, Rabinovich and her team were what one former reporter called “the unwanted stepchild” of the newsroom — the talent skewed young, sometimes just out of school, and their segments aired only in certain boroughs. Colleagues say Rabinovich, who has been at NY1 for roughly two decades, was eager to prove herself to new management.
Reporters who worked under Rabinovich describe her as “vengeful” and “the ultimate Regina George,” which sounds hyperbolic until they line up to vent. Alanna Finn, a former news assistant, says Rabinovich prevented her from getting a promotion by writing her up for accumulating unpaid parking tickets with the company car — even though tickets were common because journalists were often rushing to fires or crime scenes and had to park quickly. (A Charter spokesperson says Finn did not submit her tickets as required, resulting in fees.) A former reporter says Rabinovich once called her from an event to tear apart one of her scripts, reiterating her criticisms to her husband — who did not work at NY1 — while on the call so that he too could critique her work. CeFaan Kim, also a former NY1 reporter, says he complained to HR after colleagues informed him that if he didn’t chip in to buy Rabinovich a holiday gift, she would retaliate. Yet another reporter says he threatened legal action against Charter after Rabinovich put a GPS tracker in his company car and recorded his whereabouts. (A Charter spokesperson says using GPS trackers is a common practice for safety reasons.) “So many people complained to HR about Melissa, and they just kind of brushed it under the rug,” he says.
In their new roles, Rabinovich and Proia started holding monthly meetings with staffers, but the meetings grew contentious, former producers say, when they brought up money. They were told they were lucky to have jobs at all when other media outlets were cutting staff. Proia mentioned that he had made a similar salary early in his career, two decades prior — but didn’t seem to see that as worrisome, say producers. In another conversation, “he was like, ‘Well, what do you guys think you’re going to do, live in luxury apartments?’ ” says a former staffer. “We wanted to maybe be able to afford an apartment without a roommate. Nobody was looking to live in the Dakota.”
Meanwhile, management poured money and attention into Mornings on 1. Traffic reporter Jamie Stelter and longtime business anchor Annika Pergament were tapped to be Kiernan’s co-anchors. The trio are represented by the same agent and are friends off-camera. Kiernan even helped set up Stelter with her husband, CNN host Brian Stelter. It’s a story she tells so often it’s included in her bio on the NY1 website. The morning-show format changed to include more banter between co-anchors; they still ran business and political segments but also fluffier content, such as conversations led by Stelter about women preferring flats over heels.
An expensive new set was built, new promos were shot, and, for the first time at NY1, hair-and-makeup artists were hired — for the morning talent. Kiernan often referred to the grand morning-show studio as “my studio.” Colleagues say he became irate on multiple occasions when he discovered that someone had sat in his chair. A rift formed behind the scenes. “We were almost pitted against each other because the morning show was this brand-new thing [with] tons of money being thrown at it,” says a colleague. “We felt like whoever was their favorite got to do it. It wasn’t like you auditioned for it or anything like that. Pat was the deciding factor. He is the person who says yes or no.”
Stelter was on her way to becoming a recognizable media personality as well. She gave interviews about her personal life, her morning routine, her apartment’s décor. In 2011, the New York Times ran a profile of her with the headline “Stuck in Traffic? A Star Is Born.” Colleagues say she and Pergament began to behave like “high-school bullies,” openly gossiping about co-workers — sometimes with their mics still on. “It could be the way someone did their hair, what they’re wearing, their reporting,” says a former colleague. “A lot of people don’t like working with Jamie,” says another. “People would avoid her,” says a third. Stelter, they say, was protective of her position. When photos of then–fellow traffic reporter Alyse Zwick — a former Miss New York and Jets dancer — gained attention on Twitter, positioning her as one of NY1’s top performers on social media, Stelter allegedly made “snide comments.” Afterward, Rabinovich told Zwick she was not allowed to post pictures from her NFL or pageant days, says an ex-staffer.
Particularly disturbing to colleagues was the way Stelter and Pergament treated former weather anchor Stacy Ann Gooden, who was hired in 2017. Ten current and former employees say Gooden was ostracized by the three co-anchors. Insiders say Gooden was often excluded from meetings, and Stelter and Pergament would talk disparagingly about her on set. During roundtable discussions on air, Gooden was often left out of the conversation, and when she was given the opportunity to speak, “it was very short, abrupt,” says John Friia, a former producer. In 2018, when Gooden, who is Black, interviewed New York City’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, for a Black History Month segment, “one of the questions Pat and Jamie wanted Stacy-Ann to ask was how Dante” — McCray’s son with Mayor Bill de Blasio — “got his Afro so big,” says a former producer. (A second former producer confirms this account. Kiernan and Stelter deny it.) “It got to the point where Stacy-Ann couldn’t take it anymore because they were just outwardly rude,” says a former colleague. A former crew member says Gooden reported the behavior to HR. When nothing changed, Gooden quit. “She wouldn’t even let them counteroffer,” says the crew member. (Gooden declined to comment; Charter declined to comment on Pergament’s behalf.*)
Outside the morning show, older reporters found themselves pushed aside. It was awkward, former colleagues say, when on-air reporter Shannan Ferry — who was in elementary school when Shaughnessy ran from the falling towers on 9/11 — was at the anchor desk and Shaughnessy was in the field. “That juxtaposition wasn’t lost on people,” says a former producer. Ferry, who was raised in Queens and is the daughter of a plumber, was in her mid-20s at the time and was already recognized as a promising talent. “I knew I didn’t always have as much experience as other people at my station, or at other stations in the New York City market, but I knew I was responsible to try to hustle and get out there as best as I could,” Ferry says. She had grown up watching NY1; getting the opportunity to anchor already? She’d be crazy to turn that down.
At first, Torre appeared to be one of the lucky ones: She was given her own live show at noon, holding her midday anchor spot. But outside that one-hour program, she saw her on-air hours slashed. (A Charter spokesperson says that it’s possible viewers saw less of Torre because the channel began airing fewer pretaped segments. However, the company claims her live coverage did not decrease.) Likewise, Shaughnessy, Ramirez, and Lee had been filling in at the anchor desk for years but were passed over when full-time anchoring positions became available. What opportunities they did have were dramatically reduced. Shaughnessy, a weekend anchor, filled in during the more popular weekday time slot 48 times in 2017 but only five times in 2018; Ramirez’s weekday anchor appearances dropped from 49 in 2016 to seven in 2018.
Torre also got to use a new studio, though it was smaller, shared, and poorly lit, colleagues say. NY1 invested in promotional videos for Mornings on 1 and some of the younger anchors, but Torre had to fight for a promo and felt the vendor hired to produce it was second-rate. (A Charter spokesperson says, “As is typical with any network, we have emphasized the most popular programming, our Mornings on 1 show,” and adds that NY1 made promos featuring other women over 40.) Torre was also allegedly told that hair and makeup were “not for her.” Ahbi Nishman, a freelance makeup artist, says she was instructed not to stay late for Torre. “They would be like, ‘If she can’t get here on time, she’s out of luck,’ ” says Nishman, who notes that Torre was coming in from New Jersey. “It definitely had the feeling of, We are putting you in a position where it is difficult for you so we have more ammo to say, ‘It’s not working.’ ”
Eventually, after complaints, hair and makeup were provided, but only at 9 a.m. — three hours before Torre went on the air. (A Charter spokesperson says Torre’s shift began at 9 a.m. and that if she arrived punctually, she had “ample time for her makeup.”) Torre complained to Rabinovich and Proia and eventually took the matter to the then–senior vice-president of news, Dan Ronayne, telling him that Proia told her, “I don’t want to hear any more. That’s just the way it is. Too bad. Boo-hoo.” (Now bound by NDAs, Torre, Shaughnessy, Ramirez, Farinacci, and Lee can’t talk about their experiences at NY1, but their accounts are detailed in the complaint.)
Torre was also a theater critic for NY1’s On Stage program. Karin Garfin, a former producer of On Stage who later filed a legal complaint of her own, says that from her first days at NY1, there was “a campaign against Roma.” In an early meeting, Garfin says executive producer Kevin Dugan and his boss, Audrey Gruber, made derogatory remarks about Torre’s looks after she had undergone chemo for colon cancer. “I know that she’s been here since we went on air, but does she need to look like it?” Gruber asked, per Garfin’s complaint. Garfin says that Dugan — who she says sexually harassed her — repeatedly instructed her to cut down Torre’s segments and told her that Torre’s look didn’t go with the new, “younger aesthetic” of the show.
Meanwhile, Shaughnessy, who had a reputation for being one of the stronger anchors at the station, found herself left off of Rabinovich’s schedule entirely. Shaughnessy went into panic mode, according to co-workers. She told bosses she would do “whatever it took” to get more anchoring opportunities. When she went to Bair with her concerns that Rabinovich was sidelining her, he urged her not to make a formal complaint, according to the lawsuit. Lee also spoke to management about Rabinovich. Afterward, both women were demoted to general-assignment reporter — a junior position that involves lugging one’s own camera equipment. “I’m pulling 40 pounds of gear out the door into near-freezing temperatures to drive myself to a story that won’t air as much as others’ and see younger women with professionally styled hair and makeup walking by me, heading into a studio for a weekday dayside anchor slot I applied for and was denied,” Lee, who won an Emmy in 2020, told Vice that year. “You can imagine how humiliating it is.” Farinacci and Ramirez both escalated their complaints to HR around the same time to no avail. Frustrated and out of options, the five women banded together and hired a lawyer.
Torre walked into the newsroom on June 19, 2019, to quiet applause, the producers who worked with her lightly tapping their hands together in approval but wary of anyone in management seeing them. Moments earlier, their phones had been pinged with a news alert from the New York Times: A lawsuit had been filed against Charter. There was shock among employees that the women had actually done it, although the contents of the lawsuit were less surprising.
Support poured in on Twitter: Katie Couric, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Megyn Kelly tweeted about the lawsuit, as did local lawmakers and fellow journalists. Torre was especially vocal — for Fast Company, she wrote an essay titled “I Was the Face of NYC News for 27 Years. Now I’m Being Pushed Aside Because I’m a 61-Year-Old Woman.” When Torre was told she would not be hosting NY1’s coverage of the ticker-tape parade for the U.S. women’s soccer World Cup win, as she had in 2015, she posted an open letter to Mayor de Blasio on Medium asking him to “condemn NY1’s actions in the strongest terms.” De Blasio obliged, tweeting, in part, “@RomaTorreNYC is a tireless advocate who’s worked hard to earn the trust of New Yorkers — she belongs at this parade. Shame on @NY1.” (A Charter spokesperson notes that the parade took place prior to Torre’s time slot.)
The lawsuit further divided the newsroom. Kiernan wasn’t a defendant, but he was roped into the press coverage, especially as it pertained to his salary. The lawsuit alleged that Proia and Rabinovich were giving opportunities to younger women who had similar looks or ethnic backgrounds, grooming them to replace the more senior anchors. To hammer the point home, the lawsuit included images of Shaughnessy, Ramirez, Lee, and Farinacci next to their youthful look-alikes.
“I was so proud of them for speaking up because we know what happens — women have an expiration date,” says a former reporter. “At the same time, I think the way their attorneys had written the complaint was a little unfair. It didn’t account for the fact that some of the younger female talent were working their asses off for nothing.” (She says that when she was at NY1, she made roughly $50,000 a year working 16-hour days.) Still, she recognized some of the behaviors mentioned in the lawsuit.
Angi Gonzalez, then 38, was one of the women pictured. She later told the New York Post that she took issue with any implication that she lacked experience; before joining NY1, she was an anchor at an NBC affiliate and had twice been nominated for an Emmy. Gonzalez wasn’t much younger than Farinacci. And while it could be argued this was evidence that there wasn’t bias, a case could also be made that it was a blaring alarm: In just a couple of years, this could be you. Farinacci, after all, had been nominated for an Emmy five times.
The petty sniping that had existed before only worsened. On a day Shaughnessy wore a shirt with cutout shoulders, Gonzalez openly commented that she was too old for the style. When a producer brought in a cake as a thank-you to Shaughnessy, he says, his schedule was changed. It was hard to imagine that the previous spring, when Torre won an Emmy, Kiernan had proudly taken a photo of her accepting her gold trophy and shared it on his Instagram account — one of the last happy moments for Mom and Dad before the nasty divorce.
In December, Torre, Shaughnessy, Lee, Farinacci, and Ramirez settled with Charter for an undisclosed amount. Aurelio, who had been disgusted by the way the women were treated and had repeatedly contacted Charter executives over the years and asked them not to screw up his beloved channel, says he understood why they took the settlement. “Finally, they got an offer they couldn’t refuse … Part of me was pleased by it because it forced the company to do exactly what they didn’t want to do,” he says. By hiring younger talent, “they had intended to save money. But I think, at least in the short term, this was costly for them.”
Still, it was hardly a victory. As part of the deal, the women agreed to leave NY1. “People go, ‘Oh well, you get paid to be silent.’ No, you never work again, ” says former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who walked away with $20 million and an apology — but also an NDA — when she sued then–Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment and wrongful termination in 2016. (Ailes disputed her allegations.) “Those women at NY1, they want to work. They don’t want a settlement.” Carlson is now an advocate for legislation banning NDAs and arbitration clauses. Some of the former NY1 anchors are also speaking out. At a virtual event in May hosted by the New York Women’s Foundation, Shaughnessy and Farinacci gave advice on navigating sexism at work. “I would say to a woman — and this is just speaking generally — if you suspect something is awry in your workplace, you should start documenting,” said Shaughnessy. “You should start time-stamping things; you should listen to conversations, write those conversations down, say who had those conversations. If you know the rules in your state, you should record those conversations if it is allowed.”
Charter is still contending with legal issues. Two experienced part-time reporters, Thalia Perez and Michelle Greenstein, have filed a complaint against the company for pregnancy discrimination. Perez, then 43, says she was fired during her third trimester of pregnancy. Greenstein says she was let go months after giving birth at age 40. She says Rabinovich passed her over when hiring for a full-time position, telling her she didn’t think Greenstein could handle the hours with a newborn. “You should stay home and enjoy the time with your baby,” Rabinovich allegedly said. Garfin also filed a complaint, claiming that Dugan, the producer of On Stage, wrote a false review of her work performance that led to her being fired — after she had refused his advances. (Another former employee who worked at NY1 prior to Garfin says that Dugan, who remains at NY1, talked about his sex life to her at work and “never knew where the line was.” Multiple women interviewed say HR mishandled their sexual-harassment complaints.) The cases are in arbitration — Perez and Greenstein’s because of an otherwise innocuous corporate email sent before the age-discrimination suit that, in the fifth paragraph, mentioned that they waived their right to court litigation unless they opted out. (Neither recalls reading the email.) In a recent deposition for Perez’s case, Rabinovich denied wrongdoing.
In April, Bair sent an email to employees announcing that he was going on a “listening tour” of the company. Multiple insiders say morale is low (current and former employees note that so many people have left in the past year that managers stopped sending good-bye emails for a period), and the meetings devolved into venting sessions. A current employee says that people were particularly upset about a recent round of layoffs, which included the bulk of the channel’s young, tireless news assistants, considered by many to be the lifeblood of the channel. There were tears.
There are also still believers. Wills, who turned down the opportunity to go to WNBC in the late ’90s and never looked back, is one of them, calling herself “deeply attached to NY1.” She goes to bat for Bair without prompting. “You know what I’m most impressed with about Mike Bair? He’s not a journalist, but he’s an excellent listener. He has a great sense of what things should look like, feel like, and then he has the skill set to execute it.” It was Bair who gave her the show In Focus With Cheryl Wills, a platform that has allowed her to do the work she is most proud of, including a one-hour special after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Only her show includes the name of its host. “Pat Kiernan’s name is not on Mornings on 1,” she says. “Did you catch that?”
Even without his name on his show, Kiernan remains the cornerstone of the channel. “Look, if you’re an anchor, you want to be the next Dan Rather. I’m dating myself. The next — the next Lester Holt. And I don’t think it’s there for [Kiernan],” says Paulus. “He’s perfect for the channel, and the channel is perfect for him.” Kiernan says he’s not interested in a new gig “that might be perceived by some to be a modest step up.” He has hosted game shows and says he made it “abundantly clear” that if the opportunity were ever presented to host Jeopardy!, he would take it.
For now, though, it seems Kiernan will stay put. He still speaks in the tone of NY1’s original mission statement. “We’re telling the stories that need to be told,” he says. NY1 has been closely covering the New York City mayoral race with regular news stories, analysis, interviews with candidates, and polling. The channel’s long-running political show, Inside City Hall, currently hosted by Errol Louis, is still a mainstay, airing twice on weeknights.
Over the past year, with more New Yorkers home during the pandemic, viewership has increased, according to a Charter spokesperson. From March 2020 to March 2021, full-day ratings were 40 percent higher than the full-day average from the prior year, and midday ratings nearly doubled. “We’re not saying we’re saving local news, but we’re doing our hardest to save local news,” Bair says. He has a copy of Aurelio’s mission statement from 30 years ago at his desk, which some old-timers find humorous, although Bair reads from it earnestly. NY1 has 50 reporters covering the city, he says, and “our mission of the greater good, community service, has not changed.” The way he talks about the future of NY1 sounds similar to the way Paulus speaks of its origins; reporters are now expected to be one-person crews. Last year, the company even hired Rosenblum — the same producer NY1 hired in the ’90s — to teach reporters to shoot their own footage, this time on iPhones and iPads. Bair and Swenson are attempting to create a nimble newsroom that can keep pace with Twitter.
Ferry, for one, is excited about the new approach. For her, NY1 is still a launchpad. She has real talent, according to producers who have worked with her, and she has another thing just as valuable: time. “My ultimate goal would be to anchor and anchor live,” she says. “Not that I don’t love breaking news, but I think there’s something really special about being part of a live show.”
Torre’s role as the noon anchor remains unfilled. Some current and former employees say they are crushed by the absence of the longtime anchor and her female colleagues, but “the thing that makes this tricky is it’s been totally fine,” one staffer admits. He calls what happened to the anchors “an injustice” but adds, a pang of guilt in his voice, that those who remain “are also really great.” “It’s too bad that the ship sailed the way that it did,” he says. “But at the same time, I’m not surprised, right? I would’ve been more surprised if we could have said the corporate machine was defeated or saw the errors of its ways.”
There is a strong desire to move on. Mornings on 1 is now back to its studio in Chelsea Market after months of being taped remotely. For viewers, there’s at least some comfort in the consistency. The five women anchors might be gone, but Kiernan’s still there, right where they’ve seen him for over 20 years. For the staff of the morning show, there has also been consistency: In March, Kiernan went off on co-workers about someone altering the height of his anchor chair. The next day, his name had been added to the back.
*This story has been updated to clarify that Charter declined to comment on Annika Pergament’s behalf.