Statement from NABJ on the Resignation of WAMU-FM News Director Jim Asendio
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Posted by: Aprill Turner
DC (February 28, 2012) --The National Association of
Black Journalists (NABJ) is disappointed that an ethical dispute has led to the
resignation of NABJ member Jim Asendio as news director at the Washington
public radio station WAMU-FM. We would have hoped that a resolution included
Mr. Asendio continuing his excellent leadership of WAMU's newsroom.
Mr. Asendio is a highly regarded journalist with a
reputation for adhering to the highest standards of journalistic ethics. We
commend him for holding firm to those standards when he objected to WAMU's
decision to have its journalists attend a fundraising event with the station's
Public radio and television stations and networks
rely heavily on donations. It isn't unusual for prominent journalists to be
asked to appear at donor events or participate in other related efforts. In
doing so, however, it is critical that a strict separation between fundraising
efforts and newsrooms be maintained. This policy is in place in newsrooms to
avoid creating any appearance that donors influence editorial decisions.
In the case of Mr. Asendio, he resigned from WAMU
rather than risk an ethical compromise. We find it disconcerting that he felt
compelled to chose between his ethics and his job.
"I salute Jim's stand on maintaining a high
level ethical standards," NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said. "It
is something all of us, as journalists, must work to uphold."
Under Mr. Asendio's direction since 2006, WAMU has
become one of the top-rated news stations in the Washington area.
"This is a great loss for radio news,"
NABJ Vice President of Broadcast and KCBS Radio reporter Bob Butler said.
"I've known Jim for years and have the utmost respect for him as a radio
journalist and manager. When he was hired, WAMU was not doing well in the
ratings. His vision and leadership brought the station to number 2 in the
Mr. Asendio's resignation highlights a problem not
uncommon among journalists, many of whom face increasing pressure from
employers to attract more listeners, viewers or readers, too often by pushing
the limits of our professional standards. These pressures should never exist
under the threat of losing one's job.
We call on executives both at public radio and
for-profit news organizations (which face the same ethical challenges while
chasing advertising dollars) to maintain work environments driven by
assiduously ethical news-gathering practices. Anything less is a disservice to
their audiences and undermines revenue goals built on gaining audience share.
advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest
organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career
development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide.