Staffers at Chicago Public Media are asking the station’s board of directors to be more transparent about the process for hiring its new CEO.
Earlier this month, the board said it was looking into the recent turmoil at WAMU in Washington, D.C., in light of CPM’s hiring of Andi McDaniel, who previously served as WAMU’s chief content officer. WAMU leaders drew criticism from staff for their handling of internal complaints against employees; GM JJ Yore resigned this month.
After the board announced the review of McDaniel’s hiring, staffers wrote a letter asking for more information about the review and whom the board would be interviewing. They also asked to meet with the board to discuss McDaniel’s hiring and the search process.
In a response to staff Aug. 11 obtained by Current, CPM Board Chair Bryan Traubert wrote that the board is “in complete agreement with you that our next leader must have the trust, credibility and the experience necessary to help us create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace at CPM.”
But he denied the requests for an all-staff meeting and to hear from McDaniel.
“While we appreciate the spirit of that request, we are in the midst of a complex and sensitive review for everyone involved, including Andi,” Traubert wrote. “As a result, we will not be able to share more details while our review is underway.”
Nearly forty staff members signed an Aug. 14 letter to the board obtained by Current in which they said they were “unsatisfied that many of our questions regarding the CEO hiring process remain unanswered.”
“It is unacceptable that our own leadership cannot share more specifics about how it selected the next leader of this public organization as part of a process that has been billed as ‘transparent,’” staffers wrote.
Employees said they wanted to know how many people besides McDaniel’s references were spoken to as part of the CEO search. They also asked how many candidates were brought to the board for interviews and their racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The staff said that when McDaniel was announced as CEO the board said she “built a culture at WAMU that is ‘highly diverse, collaborative and ambitious, helping the station become a magnet for diverse talent and emphasizing inclusion,’” the staffers wrote. “Revelations over the past few weeks have revealed a long-standing culture at WAMU that was quite the opposite. How did our Board fail to discover these issues through its current hiring processes? We believe our employees and our members deserve to better understand how these facts were missed or ignored, and how our Board plans to adjust its future hiring processes.”
“It’s less about the candidate and more about the process,” Steve Bynum, a senior producer at Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ and a union steward, told Current. Some staff members also believe that they should have had more input in the hiring decision, he said.
Given the revelations at WAMU, “staff members feel entitled to being informed about something that so deeply affects our organization and our reputation and our day-to-day work lives,” Bynum said.
The letter went on to say, “Recent revelations have left many people of color and women at CPM questioning whether our Board and institution values them and will protect them. Many feel unsafe, and are uncomfortable about the future work climate in our newsroom and broader organization.”
Staffers have not received a response from the board as of Friday morning, Bynum said.
In his Aug. 11 letter, Traubert said, “This process may yet take another few weeks until it is resolved.”