KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A former columnist claims in court that the Kansas City Star defamed him after firing him for using what he says almost all reporters use - press releases.
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Steve Penn worked for the Star from 1980 to July 2011. His last position was writing a thrice-weekly general interest column about upcoming high school and college sports events, for which Penn says he occasionally used press releases.
"The widespread practice in journalism is to treat such press releases as having been voluntarily released by their authors into the flow of news with the intention that the release will be reprinted or published, and preferably with no or minimal editing," Penn says in his complaint in Jackson County Court. "As such, attribution of such news releases is typically not expected by the author, nor offered by journalists who receive them."
Penn claims that it was "the widespread practice at the Star ... to use these press releases without attribution".
But, he claims, "Nevertheless, one of (his) supervisors apparently objected to the widespread practice and without informing plaintiff that it should no longer be followed, decided to 'make an example' of plaintiff and to push for his firing.
"The Star and its editor Mi-Al Parish agreed to this supervisor's request for termination, and fired plaintiff.
"Upon doing so, the Star published a column announcing plaintiff's firing and stating that he had been fired because the Star had uncovered several instances of plaintiff using press releases without attribution (Exhibit One: Article Announcing Firing.)
"The plain and ordinarily understood meaning of these words was that plaintiff had engaged in professional misconduct."
Penn seeks actual and punitive damages for defamation and prima facie tort. He is represented by Lyle Gregory, of Raymore, Mo.
The editor is not named as a defendant. The defendants are the Star and McClatchy Newspapers.