The leader of WAMU in Washington, D.C., is stepping down after his handling of employee misconduct drew widespread criticism from staff and prompted calls for his resignation.
In a press release Friday, the station announced that JJ Yore is leaving immediately. Before recruiting his successor, WAMU licensee American University will also work to “enhance the culture” at the station, the release said.
“Today, we are announcing a series of critical steps designed to address issues in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, human resources, and management, as well as how matters of misconduct are handled at WAMU,” said Seth Grossman, American University VP of people and external affairs, in the release. “These actions are a combination of immediate and longer-term steps to accelerate WAMU’s work to enhance culture and workplace.”
The release said WAMU’s licensee will add an HR employee relations consultant at the station “who has proven experience in improving organizational culture and creating inclusive workplaces. The consultant will assess past practices within WAMU and between WAMU and AU and provide recommendations on new structures,” the release said.
Station leadership will undergo training on diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism. A task force chaired by WAMU’s chief content officer will review station culture and make recommendations. A search for Yore’s replacement will begin after the task force completes its work.
Employees at the station have called for Yore’s resignation over the past week after DCist, a WAMU news website, published an in-depth investigation July 29 into inappropriate behavior by former WAMU transportation reporter Martin Di Caro. DCist detailed Di Caro’s history of behavior toward dozens of women and “other people of marginalized genders” that made many of them uncomfortable, including comments, text messages and requests for dates. Four of the sources who spoke to DCist had worked for WAMU. Others were sources for Di Caro’s reporting or spokespersons for the city’s government or transit authority.
Di Caro worked for WAMU from 2012 to 2017. Despite complaints about his behavior, he was promoted to a full-time position and made host of a podcast about transportation issues. Staffers questioned why Di Caro’s behavior was tolerated for so long and why he was kept on at the station despite two “final” warnings.
Current also reported last month that several women of color left the station over their treatment by Zuri Berry, a senior managing editor. The journalists said that they felt Berry had undermined their work and contributed to a toxic work environment, and that their complaints to management had little effect. Berry is now the subject of an investigation by American University Human Resources.
‘I regret the sense that I have let you down’
In an email to staff Friday, Yore said, “As I have looked back on the past months, I realize that I have not led the station through recent events in a way that has earned and maintained your trust and that trust is essential to our mutual success and to the success of WAMU. I regret the sense that I have let you down which is why I feel I must now step aside. I assure you that I respect you as colleagues and friends and it was not my intention to cause any ill will.”
“I have concluded that, as much as I would like to continue leading WAMU, you will be able to move more quickly to the next great era if I step aside,” Yore added.
In its press release, WAMU pointed out Yore’s contributions to the station since his appointment as GM in 2014. Yore increased the station’s revenue by more than 70% and membership by 40%, and the staff doubled in size under his tenure.
“AU thanks JJ for his years of service to WAMU, and we wish him well as he pursues his next endeavor,” said Grossman.
Staffers responded to the news on Twitter.
American University will appoint an interim GM at WAMU within the next four to six weeks. It also named interim Chief Content Officer Monna Kashfi to the role permanently.
Current is an editorially independent service of the American University School of Communication.