Tweets by WAMU staffers call attention to diversity issues at station

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WAMU building

Sasha Fernandez/Current

WAMU's building in Washington, D.C.

Staffers at WAMU in Washington, D.C., are flooding social media with tweets about departures of people of color from the station after a Black producer said last week that management was seeking to fire him.

Morgan Givens, a producer for the station’s talk show 1A, tweeted Friday that WAMU GM JJ Yore was “actively seeking a way to fire me.” In a later tweet, Givens cited “rampant abuse” against Black producers and journalists within the station.  

Givens told Current that he had heard from a coworker that Yore intended to fire him for his outspoken conduct on Twitter. Earlier this month, 1A EP Rupert Allman met with Givens after the producer referred to President Trump as a “white supremacist fascist” in a tweet. Allman told Current that he believed Givens had overstepped NPR’s guidelines pertaining to journalists’ expression of political views on social media.

After that meeting, Givens tweeted, “Remember those same ‘guidelines’ that are based on a white supremacist idea of ‘objectivity’? Remember how black journalists were being reprimanded for calling racism racism? Anyway. There’s a white supremacist fascist in the White House.”

Givens spoke about being reprimanded for his tweets on a June 9 episode of 1A titled “When Journalists Say They’re Objective — What Does that Even Mean?” 

Givens told Current that he spoke out about Yore’s alleged intention to fire him because he believes that station management has a history of mistreating journalists and staffers of color. 

“I refuse to be silent about it, because it’s wrong,” Givens said. 

In an email to staff Monday obtained by Current, Yore denied that “a member of our staff may be fired over a tweet that ran counter to our social media guidelines.”

In an email to Current, Yore again said it was untrue that Givens might be fired for violating social media guidelines. “I’ve apologized to him and the WAMU staff for the anxiety this misunderstanding has caused,” Yore said. “I and other individuals in management and human relations also have reached out to Morgan to open a dialogue. So far he has not responded.”

“It takes openness, humility, and understanding for healing and change to occur,” Yore added. “I hope to display those attributes, and along with our staff, find our path forward together.”

Yore, who has led WAMU since 2014, is credited on his profile page for leading WAMU as it doubled its Black and Hispanic audience. A 2017 Washingtonian article credited Yore for increasing the racial diversity of WAMU’s staff. (WAMU and Current are both part of American University.)

After Givens’ tweet Monday, many WAMU staffers tweeted in support of him and other journalists and staffers of color at the station. 

In a separate email Monday to WAMU staff obtained by Current, News Director Jeffrey Katz said he is arranging a meeting for this week for staff to discuss the culture of the station’s newsroom and the journalists of color who have left.  

“There are no easy solutions, but your input should shape the next steps we take,” Katz wrote. “We need to have a workplace where everyone is valued — and that reflects the community we cover.”

This post has been updated with a response from WAMU GM JJ Yore.

4 thoughts on “Tweets by WAMU staffers call attention to diversity issues at station

  1. Let these staffers leave. They’re not smart or mature enough to grasp the concept of newsroom integrity, and there’s no shortage of qualified POC journalists who could easily replace them.

  2. Also, is it just me who’s noticed Chicago Public Media just hired WAMU’s CCO? Wonder what that tells us about both stations? Funny that that news it’s the suggested article under this one.

  3. For some reason a prior comment I posted does not seem to have gone through –
    It is troubling to see some longtime staffers reposted in this article – people who have clearly watched this toxic environment develop over time and said nothing until now. (I see there are also well-meaning new hires adding their voices to calls for improvement.)
    IMPORTANT TO NOTE: There is a lot of performative solidarity happening on twitter right now coming from WAMU employees who have watched silently and enjoyed career benefits for years. It’s a mistake to take these performances at face value.
    Also important to note that the stations’ problems are not down to a simple matter of “diversity.” People of color are more than capable of upholding racist and toxic workplace structures. Leadership, professionalism and standards of journalistic rigor are notably in short supply.

    It is unfortunate that the incredibly talented reporters of color who have left WAMU (and in some cases, journalism itself) in droves did not want to be quoted. They are probably too smart to get drawn back into the station’s mess.

    Bet they were all quite clear and honest in their exit interviews – but nothing was done with that feedback.

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