After a few high-profile employee departures this month, union members are hoping to bring immediate change to Minnesota Public Radio and restore trust within the company and among the public.
Union members of MPR and parent company American Public Radio launched a Transform MPR campaign on Tuesday in an effort to improve company culture and better reflect the communities it serves.
"It’s clear that many of you — and many MPR employees — have lost trust in the company’s senior leaders. We believe this lack of faith hasn’t developed in a vacuum. For decades, the company has mismanaged racial and gender concerns, and we are seeing the results of that today," union members wrote in a letter to the public.
Union members admit the company's culture and MPR's news coverage "routinely prioritizes white audiences and their stories, neglecting communities of color" and says the company has "fostered a harmful working environment for women and journalists of color" throughout its 53-year history.
In the letter, union members ask company leadership to "immediately adopt" a slew of recommendations that will help the company improve. Among them: hire and promote more journalists of color; be transparent about diversity and pay within the organization; correct pay disparities within six months; establish a more trustworthy human resources department; and publicly apologize and state an immediate commitment to transparency (read all their recommendations here).
This letter to the public has been in the works for weeks, union members say, adding that following some high-profile employee departures the "work feels all the more urgent now."
This month alone three MPR/APM employees have left the company. Garrett McQueen, the only Black classical host on MPR, said he was fired after not following programming guidelines. Then, longtime reporter Marianne Combs resigned her position, accusing MPR News of sitting on a story alleging misconduct by a radio DJ on The Current, which is run by MPR/APM. Fewer than 24 hours after MPR said it was "blindsided" by Combs' departure, it announced The Current's Eric Malmberg would not be back on MPR's airwaves.
"We are tired of company leadership paying lip service to these issues without taking concrete action to do better," the letter states. "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.
"We are tired of our talented colleagues leaving frustrated and disappointed," the letter adds. "We are tired of watching the company’s reputation continue to suffer."
Employees have been suggesting solutions to improve the culture within the company "for years" but no action has been taken. And although they're encouraged by the hiring of Duchesne Drew as the president of MPR, they say too much is being put on his shoulders.
So, in order to make improvements and restore trust, the union members demand the company adopt its various recommendations immediately.
They're also asking the public to put pressure on MPR/APM to do this by contacting the company.