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American Public Media CEO To Resign Amid Pressure For Institutional Change


News now from the public broadcasting world. The CEO of American Public Media Group has announced he will step down. His organization produces shows such as "Marketplace" and runs public radio stations in Minnesota and California. Just to be clear, American Public Media is a separate organization from NPR, though many NPR member stations also air APM shows. And just to be clear on the timing, the departure announcement comes as some APM journalists have issued statements saying they have lost trust in the company's senior leaders, specifically concerning gender equality and racism in the workplace. To sort through this, we are joined by Tyler Falk of Current. That is a publication that covers public media.

Tyler Falk, welcome.

TYLER FALK: Thanks for having me, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right. So who is the outgoing CEO, and what is he saying about why he's stepping down?

FALK: Yeah. That's Jon McTaggart. He's the CEO of American Public Media Group. He and the organization's board chair told staff in an email yesterday that he plans to step down after nearly a decade running the organization. He said that he had been planning to transition for the last two years. And, you know, he said he believes now is the time to begin that transition.

KELLY: OK. Well, I mentioned that there have been these statements from employees. What are they saying? What are the demands that employees are putting out there?

FALK: Yeah. So a lot of the employee demands revolve around transparency. So they want the organization to disclose things like, you know, racial breakdowns for hiring, interviewing, attrition. They also want people of color to be hired and promoted to senior editorial leadership roles. And they're also actually looking for an apology from senior leadership for what they say is decades of failure to support employees of color.

KELLY: So again, just to emphasize, we don't know exactly what is driving Jon McTaggart's departure. He has not laid that out for us yet. But it is worth noting that Minnesota Public Radio and APM have been in the news a lot lately. Just give us a little bit of the backdrop here.

FALK: Yeah, that's right. Recently there has been the firing of Garrett McQueen, who was a Black host at "Classical 24." There was also a veteran NPR reporter - that's Minnesota Public Radio reporter Marianne Combs - who had said that editors weren't moving forward with an investigation into a deejay at The Current, which is also run by APM, who was actually accused of sexual misconduct. So that is a concern in employees' minds and front and center right now.

KELLY: Let me ask about one other possible factor and whether it is a factor here. Public media, including NPR and APM, have struggled with financial losses due to the pandemic. APM and Minnesota Public Radio have announced layoffs. Shows have been canceled. Is that a factor with this departure now, do we know?

FALK: Well, what we do know is that actually there was a second group today that released a letter calling specifically for gender equality. This is a group at APM. And they actually were saying that management wouldn't offer a furlough program. And they were saying that they believe that doing so would have saved money and saved jobs. And they also pointed out that no executives lost their job because of the organization's financial problems. So we are seeing a hint of that in this most recent public letter.

KELLY: That is Tyler Falk. He covers public radio for the independent publication Current, updating us there on news that the CEO of American Public Media Group is announcing he will step down.

Tyler Falk, thank you.

FALK: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.