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Water Under the Bridge
THE HEADLINES, SUCH as they were, have faded. But a few old news junkies still remember the Great C.J. Glass of Water Incident of 1999. Those were wilder times in local journalism. That spring the Star Tribune gossip columnist caused a stir when she flung a glass of water at a photographer during a banquet, after the shooter had ignored her requests that he not take her picture. In an editor's note shortly thereafter, Tim McGuire informed his paper's readers that "[t]he Star Tribunedoes not condone such behavior and will not tolerate it. The matter has been dealt with firmly." (For the unexpurgated version of events, see the May 19 and May 26, 1999 installments of this column.) Despite McGuire's tone of finality, the matter was not put to rest. Miffed at having received a five-day suspension without pay, C.J. filed a grievance. The wheels of union justice having cranked slowly round, a daylong arbitration hearing was held in January, and the following month C.J. got news that she'd won: She'll get back her lost wages, and her personnel file will contain nothing more than a written warning. Bill Ward, grievance committee chairman for the Strib's unit of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild/Typographical Union, says one of the key factors in the case was that McGuire took action only after a competitor brought the episode to light. "He did nothing punitive until several days after he knew about the incident, when there was photo of her throwing the water with a smile on her face in the St. Paul Pioneer Press," Ward points out. The case, he notes, is something of an anomaly: It's the first newsroom grievance that's gone to arbitration in at least five years. McGuire was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Star Tribune spokesman Frank Parisi declined to comment, saying he was disinclined to discuss personnel matters. C.J. says she regrets the water-tossing incident but adds, "I threw water at this photographer, not battery acid. I thought the punishment suggested that I was a public behavior problem, and since I'm not I resented being treated that way by my newspaper. I'm happy to put this behind me and I hope they will too."