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News & Press: NABJ News

Statement from NABJ on the Resignation of WAMU-FM News Director Jim Asendio

Tuesday, February 28, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Aprill Turner
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Washington, 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 donors.

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 market."

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.

An 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.


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