Jon McTaggart, CEO of American Public Media Group, told staff Tuesday that he plans to step down.
“For the past two years, Jon has been discussing CEO succession with leaders of the board and he believes now is the time to begin the transition to new leadership for APMG,” according to an email to staff from board chair Mary Brainerd and McTaggart that was obtained by Current.
An APMG spokesperson confirmed the announcement.
The email said that the board supports the decision “and will soon outline more specifically the plans to move forward with the succession process.” McTaggart will continue to lead the organization until a successor is in place, the email said.
The announcement came at the end of an email addressing concerns raised by staff about diversity, equity and inclusion at the organization, which is the parent company of American Public Media, Minnesota Public Radio and Southern California Public Radio. A committee of unionized APM and MPR employees had called on the organization to take specific actions against internal racism in a letter Tuesday.
“It’s clear that many of you — and many MPR employees — have lost trust in the company’s senior leaders,” the employees wrote. “We believe this lack of faith hasn’t developed in a vacuum. For decades, the company has mismanaged racial and gender concerns, and we are seeing the results of that today.”
They went on to say that the “company culture and our news coverage routinely prioritizes white audiences and their stories, neglecting communities of color. The company, over its 53-year history, has also fostered a harmful working environment for women and journalists of color.”
Employees’ demands included hiring or promoting people of color to senior editorial leadership roles at MPR and APM Reports, APM’s investigative journalism arm, within six months and more transparency about hiring.
Other demands included correcting pay discrepancies, developing career paths for interns and apologizing publicly to address “decades of failure to support employees of color and an accurate assessment of the work that remains to be done.”
“We are deeply saddened by the pain felt by individuals within our organization,” McTaggart and Brainerd said in their joint letter. “The Board and the entire leadership team are committed to continuing to listen carefully, learn from others, and take actions — guided by our shared values — that ensure a work environment where everyone is truly safe, welcome, respected and appreciated.”
In the email, the organization’s leaders pointed to actions focused on diversity, equality and inclusion that McTaggart said in July the organization would take.
“We’ve heard from a number of employees that this plan doesn’t yet adequately address concerns about our workplace,” McTaggart and Brainerd wrote.
“We are listening to our employees, and we’re taking every point to heart,” they wrote. “The action plan that was announced in July will continue, and we will build on those efforts based on input we receive from employees and other stakeholders.”
In addition to the concerns laid out by the union committee, the organization has been in the headlines with the firing of Garrett McQueen, the only black host at Classical 24, a classical music service distributed by APM, and the resignation of veteran MPR reporter Marianne Combs, who said editors would not move forward with her investigation into a DJ at The Current, a Twin Cities music station operated by MPR, who was accused of sexual misconduct.
The organization has also been under financial pressures from the pandemic. In June it laid off more than two dozen staff and ended the production of Live From Here.
McTaggart succeeded APMG founder Bill Kling in 2011 and was previously COO of the organization. He has worked at APMG since 2003.
“A committee of unionized APM and MPR employees had called on the organization to take specific actions against internal racism in a letter Tuesday.”
Did management perform a minstrel show during happy hour? Tsk tsk.