NPR has promised veteran reporter Daniel Zwerdling another year
of work, but colleagues are still asking what management’s decision
to eliminate his old job signals about the network’s journalistic
Zwerdling will contribute NPR reports to PBS’s Now with Bill
Moyers, taking a job previously held by Emily Harris. Harris
is NPR’s new Berlin correspondent. Zwerdling can move into another
job if the Now partnership ends, but he says the grant-funded
Science Desk opening pays 25 percent less than his current salary.
NPR’s Oct. 9 decision to lay off Zwerdling stunned many
of his colleagues, who say his highly produced investigative reports
embody their journalistic mission. They rallied to his defense,
sending a letter to management urging his reinstatement.
Though NPR extended his employment, it did not resurrect his previous
investigative reporting slot. A small group of journalists met with
management Oct. 22 and about 100 news staffers met Oct. 31 to discuss
fears about the network’s direction. Many say actions such as dismissing
Zwerdling jeopardize NPR’s commitment to in-depth, innovative reporting.
But Bruce Drake, v.p. of news, has said that eliminating Zwerdling’s
job does not mean the network will end his brand of coverage.
“The generic, all-encompassing issue is that you have people who
collectively have hundreds if not thousands of years of experience
in public radio, and to what extent is management interested in
having their input in decisions?” says Ken Greene, assistant executive
director of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
(AFTRA), the union that represents most NPR journalists.
Attendees of the Oct. 31 meeting considered selecting a group of
news staffers to talk with management regularly about how to preserve
the network’s mission.