MPR staff demand ‘public apology’ from leadership for failing employees of color

"We are tired of communities hurt by systemic racism continuing to be alienated by our coverage."

Image from MPR Facebook.

A group of Minnesota Public Radio employees said they have “lost trust in the company’s senior leaders” and accused the organization of “routinely” prioritizing “white audiences and their stories.”

An open letter published online earlier this week calls on MPR and its parent company American Public Media to enact a number of “anti-racism” and “gender equity” demands.

“We are tired of company leadership paying lip service to these issues without taking concrete action to do better. We are tired of yet more listening sessions, tired of repeating ourselves. We are tired of communities hurt by systemic racism continuing to be alienated by our coverage, tired of seeing trust from sources broken again and again,” states the letter, which was written by an MPR and APM union committee on anti-racism and inclusion.

“We are tired of our talented colleagues leaving frustrated and disappointed. We are tired of watching the company’s reputation continue to suffer,” it adds.

The letter was published just a week after veteran MPR reporter Marianne Combs resigned after 23 years on the job. Combs publicly accused her editors of failing “to move forward” on her investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against a DJ at The Current, an MPR sister station.

Her resignation was compounded by the recent termination of Classical MPR’s only black host, Garrett McQueen.

The MPR employees, who didn’t list their names, included a list of demands for company leadership in their letter, calling for a “public apology” for the “decades of failure to support employees of color” and “full support for the recommendations of the MPR newsroom diversity committee.”

Other demands include:

  • Immediately disclose racial breakdowns for hiring, interviewing and attrition across MPR News and APM Reports newsroom positions, and update twice a year.
  • Hire or promote journalists of color to senior editorial positions at MPR News and APM Reports within six months.
  • Hire more reporters to support robust coverage of race, diversity and inequities.
  • Develop a career pathway for interns and fellows.
  • Immediately release the full report of the independent Pay Equity Study.
  • Correct pay disparities within six months.
  • Institute a 360 review system for all newsroom employees — not just senior company leaders.
  • Make an annual newsroom diversity report public for our audiences.
  • Support the attendance of journalists of color at conferences.

A second letter published this week on a website called “Transform MPR” claims that female employees are “subjected to bullying and harassing behavior by male peers and supervisors.”

“We urgently need to address poor management and toxic leadership that has, for too long, protected bad actors and even rewarded people and behavior that is racist, misogynist and broadly demeaning,” states the letter.

APM President Jon McTaggart announced his resignation shortly after the letters were released.