Counsel to The Wendy Williams Show

Jennifer Klear 97C advises clients on the legal risks related to online activities.

By Michelle Valigursky

Story Photo
Jennifer Klear 97C, production counsel for The Wendy Williams Show.

Her boss may be the Queen of Daytime TV, but Jennifer Klear 97C takes it in stride. As production counsel for The Wendy Williams Show, Klear ensures the show’s talkative host covers her legal bases. Reviewing scripts, drafting appearance agreements, and initiating contracts for promotional giveaways for the hit show is exhilarating, but, as Klear notes, “Live TV presents very interesting legal challenges.”

Operating on a seven-second delay to prevent the unintentional conversational debacle, the show’s production is fluid and subject to change at a moment’s notice. Script adjustments are made on the fly based on Williams’ on air comments, and Klear steps in when necessary to advise changes. Photos may be dropped and scripts rewritten as the show comes to a close. “Every show has its twists and turns. We never know what Wendy will say, but that unpredictability makes my job different every single day. From a legal perspective, it’s challenging and fun.”

Williams herself summed up our collective curiosity when she said, “If you are all good at what you do, that’s not the story that we like to tell.”

Hot Topics and Ask Wendy

Klear

Each day at The Wendy Williams Show presents new legal challenges for Jennifer Klear.

“It’s an easy breezy show. We don’t have time for divas or divos,” said Williams on the show earlier this week. For Hot Topics, she shares video clips of current celebrity news then responds with her own brand of insightful commentary.  Though Williams appears to share confidential secrets with her best friends in the audience, the “gossip” she reveals on the show is thoroughly fact-checked by her extensive production team before going on air and reviewed by Klear. Klear’s position requires her to evaluate and reduce any potential risks to the Show and its production company.

Often the best and most reliable source is the celebrity themselves. “If he or she tweets about something personally, that tweet is fair game. We review court documents and legal filings,” Klear explains. “Before a topic makes the lineup, the production team fact checks from multiple sources and follows the paper trail.” Until the minute the show airs, a five-person team of production assistants and interns will continue to research for fact verification while Williams and her production team conduct a closed rehearsal. Items that create a legal risk may be dropped from the daily lineup and held until they can be further substantiated.

Video clips from shows aired on other networks fall under the fair use guidelines when a topic is timely and “in the news.” Since this is daytime television, we are bound by FCC standards,” Klear explains. Each morning she reviews photos and videos “to ensure they are not lewd or obscene. “When necessary, I advise the team about blurring things like exposure of private parts, drugs, alcohol, or violence. While important legally, its one of the funnier aspects of my job. I find great irony in the fact that I am First Amendment lawyer, yet must advise the show on censorship issues. ”

In the Ask Wendy segment, viewers submit questions for Williams to answer. “Before we use a question, I will review each for potential privacy invasion. We may change identifying details to protect individuals,” Klear explains.

The show features two segments, Celebrity Fan Out and Celebrity Look-A-Likes where viewers submit photos. One aspect of Klear’s job is “to ensure that we have the relevant consent prior to airing the photographs.”

Controlled Chaos Produces Great Shows

The control room may be compact, but the work that takes place is inspiring. To an outsider, the ten conversations taking place at once may seem chaotic, but the rhythm of this television show’s production is perfectly rehearsed to ensure nearly flawless execution. To compensate for the varying length of Williams’ spontaneous commentary, the executive producer and writers may edit the script real-time to guarantee a to-the-second close for the show. Klear says “staying on top of all of the changes to reduce any legal risks is one of the biggest challenges of the job.  It requires open communication and good listening.”

Williams’ vibrant personality has earned her loyal viewers. The Hollywood Reporter writes, “In the May sweeps, Wendy doubled its year-to-year rating.”  In fact, the syndicated show is so successful that parent company Debmar Mercury has renewed through the 2016-2017 season.

Lawyer and Leader

Though she may be production counsel for the Wendy Williams Show, Klear has also earned recognition for her private practice work. Some of her more notable representations include: counseling and defending a national magazine in an alleged negligent broadcast litigation stemming from the online broadcast of an educational and informational breastfeeding video that was, in turn, stolen by a third party and disseminated on pornographic websites; pre-publication review of an online newspaper on investigative political stories related to alleged scandals or political candidates; and pre-publication review of a freelance journalist and blogger’s weekly exposé on the beauty industry. Her expertise includes litigating and counseling on media law and intellectual property matters, drafting and negotiating licensing and publishing agreements, as well as, drafting website terms of use and privacy policies. She regularly represents broadcasters, publishers, production companies, authors, journalists and start-ups on matters relating to pre-broadcast or pre-publication review, privacy, trademark, and copyright.

Her specialty is in new media law, Klear “Counsels clients on the legal risks related to online activities such as the creation of website content, blogging, and social networking.” She notes, "I have represented a company founded and co-run by my former Emory Resident Advisor, whom I reconnected with at the first NY Emory Alumni Distinguished alumni Panel. The company is Bark Bark, a marketing production company." 

As a seasoned Emory leader, Klear is the New York Alumni Chapter president while also serving as its professional development chair. Director of Alumni Career Services Carolyn Bregman 82L says, “As our NY alumni chapter leader, Jennifer takes great pride in organizing engaging events for our alumni that also provide opportunities for alumni to expand their networks and connections. She is truly inspirational.”

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Michelle Valigursky