Owens, who still works as a TV news reporter for Comcast's CN8 cable news channel, spent a fourth day on the witness stand yesterday in the trial of her race discrimination and retaliation suit against QVC.
Owens, 42, sued QVC when she was fired in 1998 after four years with the West Chester-based channel. The suit contends QVC treated minorities as "tokens," assigned them to an overnight "graveyard shift," and fired them when QVC managers decided it was time for a fresh minority face.
QVC lawyers maintain that Owens' treatment and firing were not about race. Rather, they said, Owens fell short in the most important quality of a QVC host: the ability to sell products.
In 2002 Owens filed a separate civil rights suit against Comcast, which is pending before another federal judge. That suit contends Comcast discriminated against her by reneging on a promised CN8 anchor job, purportedly after QVC told Comcast about her lawsuit.
When Owens was fired by QVC, Comcast was a majority owner of the shopping channel. Owens then got an anchor job in 1999 for Tri-State Media, which created a regional cable news channel.
The following year Comcast bought Tri-State Media, and the regional news channel became CN8.
Instead of becoming a CN8 anchor, Owens was offered the reporter's job she now has at $62,500 - the same salary she earned as a part-time anchor for Tri-State Media.
When she complained the offer was unfair, Owens said, "I was told that's the offer: take it or leave it."
Since she joined CN8, Owens testified, she has sent audition tapes and applied for anchor jobs at every TV news outlet in Philadelphia.
"I'm not getting any calls back, any interviews, and that always happened before this," Owens testified, responding to questions from her lawyer, Alan J. Rich.
Late yesterday, QVC attorney H. Robert Fiebach began his questioning of Owens, challenging not just her talent as a QVC host but as a TV anchor.
Fiebach confronted Owens with four reprimands she received as an anchor for WGAL-TV (Channel 8), the Lancaster-based NBC-affiliate, for such conduct as failing to use her on-air earpiece and check her microphone, pronunciation problems, and late filing of a script.
In her last year at WGAL before coming to QVC, Fiebach noted, Owens was demoted and lost her noontime anchor slot.
Owens acknowledged that the reprimands were deserved but said loss of the anchor slot was because WGAL downsized the noontime newscast.
"So isn't it true that you weren't too happy at WGAL?" Fiebach asked.
"Absolutely not," Owens shot back. "You are way far off the mark with that."
The trial, which is expected to last through the end of the month, resumes today with Fiebach continuing his cross-examination of Owens.
Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.