Concern about Diversity at NPR
Dear NABJ Members and Friends:
The National Association of Black Journalists is very concerned about NPR's commitment to diversity in the wake of Vivian Schiller's resignation as President and CEO and Cheryl Hampton's departure as Director of News Staff Development.
When Schiller arrived at NPR in 2009, she inherited a culture that was dismissive of diversity. NPR Senior Vice President of Communications Dana Davis Rehm said Schiller identified transforming NPR's diversity as a top priority.
Following several critical letters from NABJ, Schiller met with NABJ's president and vice-president of broadcast in 2009. She committed to creating a more diverse work force. Within days of the meeting, Schiller announced the hiring of Keith Woods as Vice President of Diversity, News. Over the next few months, Jeff Perkins was hired as Vice President of Human Resources and Chief People Officer, and former Radio One executive Deborah Cowan was hired as Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. Under Schiller's direction, NPR created two new positions related to diversity: a senior editor to diversify the voices heard on NPR and the sources used by NPR and a diversity correspondent to cover race, ethnicity, community, and culture.
In addition, long-time NABJ member Teshima Walker, who spent several years as a senior producer of "Tell Me More with Michel Martin," was promoted to executive producer on January 13.
Hampton is a familiar face at NABJ's career fair, manning NPR's booth for a number of years. She was responsible for recruiting a number of NPR employees from NABJ, including current congressional reporter Audie Cornish.
Debra Delman, NPR's Senior Vice President for Strategic Operations and Finance, said the commitment to diversity will not end with Schiller's departure.
"Our priorities in diversity and in digital media will not stop," she told NABJ on Wednesday. "I am personally committed to our diversity goals as are my colleagues on the executive team."
Delman's words are encouraging, but they are not consistent with the company's actions in changing the reporting structure - and thereby the priority and prominence - of the journalism recruiting role in a company where half the employees are journalists. NABJ is greatly concerned that this change, combined with the expertise lost with Hampton's departure on Friday, will prove a setback to NPR's progress.
NABJ challenges NPR to go beyond the relationship we had with Schiller and make a commitment to diversity at the highest level.
Yours in service,
Kathy Y. Times