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MSU agrees to $132,500 settlement in open records dispute

MURRAY – The battle of wills between Paducah television station WPSD-TV and Murray State University (MSU) – which began in November 2022 when WPSD appealed to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office over MSU’s response to an open records request – is finally over after negotiating a settlement worth $132,500.

In his Feb. 16 summary judgment, Calloway Circuit Special Judge John Atkins adopted WPSD’s argument that MSU’s actions, which included deploying a “near categorical redaction scheme at odds with existing law,” constituted a willful violation of the Kentucky Open Records Act. While he granted WPSD’s request to a motion for attorneys’ fees and statutory penalties, he also asked the parties to try to resolve their remaining issues out of court. 

According to the agreed stipulation of dismissal filed yesterday in Calloway Circuit Court the parties heeded the judge’s advice and negotiated a settlement. 

Shortly after the filing, WPSD released the settlement agreement. In it, MSU agrees to pay WPSD $42,500 for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees within 30 days. The agreement also notes that the university has already signed a two-year advertising contract with the station worth $90,000 and agrees to “not withdraw its spending” from other publications owned by Paxton Media Group, WPSD’s parent company. 

MSU, in a statement released yesterday, said that the parties “reached an agreement regarding the open records dispute which has been pending since March 2023. The parties mutually agreed to resolve the pending issues without further litigation. WPSD has also agreed to dismiss its pending lawsuit against the University. Murray State looks forward to moving forward in a positive direction.”

In a press release from WPSD, News Director Perry Boxx said he is pleased the parties were able to reach an agreement. “Judge Atkins asked both parties to use their best efforts to resolve all remaining issues amicably through negotiation and compromise.” 

“I’m grateful for the extraordinary work done by our attorneys Rick Adams and Michael Abate,” he added. “Amye Bensenhaver, co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition also provided this newsroom and me personally with advice, support and encouragement which is deeply appreciated.”

WPSD Local 6 General Manager Bill Evans called the settlement mutually beneficial and noted that it “allows Murray State to resume its professional relationship with the TV station and gain the marketing value associated with a two-year advertising plan.”

When asked, by email, to clarify whether his use of the word “resume” meant that MSU halted advertising with the station at some point over the course of the dispute, Evans replied, “If your question is ‘did MSU cancel their advertising with WPSD?’ That’s a question for MSU. I can tell you that WPSD Local 6 has more than 800 broadcast advertising clients that value their marketing relationships with Local 6. However, some of those clients’ spending may ebb and flow during the year, or season. They come to us when they need our marketing power. We’re here when a customer needs to amplify their message.”

The Sentinel reached out to MSU for additional comment regarding its advertising agreements with WPSD throughout the dispute but did not receive an immediate response.

“I’ll just say, even if it did ebb, neither I nor anyone in our newsroom was told about it,” Boxx added in an email. “But I wouldn’t expect to be told. This is a journalism organization. My boss Bill Evans came up on the journalism side of this business and he pays me to not be influenced by those kind of things.”

Editor’s note: Stories on this page were written without input or review from our Board of Directors.

Sentinel Staff

Jessica Paine
I’m Jessica Paine, founder of The Murray Sentinel. You may know me from my time as a citizen journalist, running the Calloway Covid-19 Count page on Facebook, or you may be familiar with my more recent work for another local news outlet. Being that I’m “from here,” you may have known me since I was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although you knew me as Jessica Jones. But whether you know me or not, I’m glad you found your way here.

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