Ex-'Dateline' producer sues NBC News

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NEW YORK -- A former "Dateline" producer alleges that she was let go from NBC News after she complained of ethical lapses on the show's "To Catch a Predator" series.

Marsha Bartel of Lincolnshire, Ill., has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for at least $1 million in damages. She alleges that the network breached her contract by failing to pay her through the end of the contract on Dec. 20, 2009.

Bartel was terminated from NBC News in December under what it said was the NBC Uni 2.0 cutbacks after she had signed a contract to be the sole producer on the "Predator" series the previous March.

Bartel contends that she was fired after raising several issues about the conduct of Perverted Justice, the organization that is paid by NBC News to carry out the sting operations, and NBC. The lawsuit calls it a "shadowy vigilante organization." She said she was rebuffed in her concerns and said she couldn't produce "Predator."

"Ms. Bartel was terminated because she refused to violate a primary objective and facet of her employment (i.e., acting ethically) and because she insisted on compliance with corporate rules designed to ensure accurate news reporting," the lawsuit said, according to a copy on TheSmokingGun.com. "NBC elected to act in bad faith with respect to its own mandatory employment rules because it was more interested in sensationalizing and dramatizing the 'Predator' series for profit than (for) news reporting."

NBC denied the charges, saying there was no breach of contract because Bartel's contract had an option to not renew the contract at the end of the year. It also denied Bartel's claims.

"In producing investigative projects such as 'To Catch a Predator,' we regularly have open and critical discussions about ethics and journalistic standards," NBC said in a statement. "Any producer is welcome to give his or her input. In regards to the series itself, we have been transparent about our reporting methods, including the role of law enforcement and Perverted Justice, and audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive."
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