ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The president and CEO of the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media plans to step down, an announcement that came the same day employees released a letter saying the company has fostered a harmful working environment for women and journalists of color.
Jon McTaggart said Tuesday he will leave American Public Media Group as soon as a replacement is found. The open letter sent from employees to listeners described a lack of faith in senior leaders and said the company’s problems had persisted over its 53-year history.
“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,” the letter said. “We are tired of watching the company’s reputation continue to suffer.”
MPR has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after firing the company’s only Black classical music host. Garrett McQueen changed playlists to include more diverse composers, but the company said that raised copyright concerns and that he had been warned repeatedly over the past year.
Last week, longtime MPR News reporter Marianne Combs resigned after accusing newsroom leadership of dragging their feet on reporting about misconduct of a station employee. MPR has said that editors decided the story was not ready to run because it did not meet the company’s journalistic standards, but they had expected that she was continuing to work on the story.
In 2017, MPR severed ties with Garrison Keillor, longtime host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” after he was accused of sexual harassment.
The announcement that McTaggart will step down follows increasing attention to the news media’s sluggishness in building diverse newsrooms that has come amid the global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Mary Brainerd, chairwoman of the MPR and APMG Board, and McTaggart sent a letter to employees late Tuesday, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
“We are deeply saddened by the pain felt by individuals within our organization,” they wrote. “The Board and the entire leadership team are committed to continuing to listen carefully, learn from others, and take actions — guided by our shared values — that ensure a work environment where everyone is truly safe, welcome, respected and appreciated.”
Union representatives for APM Reports and MPR News responded to McTaggart and Brainerd’s letter.
“We hope that the board considers candidates who prioritize workplace culture, hiring diversity and executive compensation limits when making their decision on the new CEO.”
McTaggart began working at the company in 1983 and began as CEO in 2011.
This story has been corrected to reflect that MPR severed ties with Keillor in 2017.