Nebraska news director fired after gathering signatures for anti-abortion ballot measure

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A Nebraska news director has been terminated by her station after allegedly working to gather signatures on an anti-abortion issue.

Melanie Standiford has been news director for Gray Television’s KNOP in North Platte, Nebraska, since 2021, having been with the station for a total of five years.

In early August 2022, the mother of nine reportedly agreed to help circulate a petition to get a measure on a 2023 ballot to make Curtis, Nebraska, where she lives, a so-called “sanctuary city for the unborn,” which could have a significant impact on the right to abortion for its residents.

“KNOP’s news personnel are not permitted, at any time and regardless of beliefs, to actively engage in any political activity for any candidate, party or ballot initiative,” a Gray spokesperson told the McCook Gazette.

Gray would also confirm that Standiford was terminated for violating company policies, most likely the one mentioned above.

This type of policy is very common at media outlets and it is also a widely accepted parameter that most journalists accept when entering the profession.

It does not appear that Standiford ever directly reported on the issue of abortion for her station and she claimed that, while she is pro-life, she could still treat the issue fairly in her job.

As news director, Standiford is in a position to influence overall news coverage decisions, though there is no direct evidence that she has acted in a bias way in her decisions at work.

Standiford, meanwhile, has hired an attorney and says she is discussing her legal options, noting that she feels her job should not preclude her from engaging in political activity.

It’s not clear how her case could fare, given that her employment agreement likely contained such a clause and such restrictions are a widely accepted tenant of working in journalism.

Standiford has since updated her LinkedIn profile to list the right-leaning commentary Fox cable network as an “employer” but listed her title as “for hire.” It’s not entirely clear if that means she is working on a freelance or per diem basis or perhaps is trying to get a role there and somehow felt that updating her profile with that listing would help.