“62% White, 15% Black/African American, 12% Asian American, and 7% Latino or Hispanic”
NPR’s recent losses of talented Black and Latino program hosts may indicate a problem with the way the organization manages opportunities for staff members of color, reported the Washington Post on Jan. 5.
Cornish announced Jan. 4 that she will vacate the spot she has filled on the daily newsmagazine since 2012.
“It’s time for me to try my hand at new journalism projects and embark on new adventures,” she said. As of this report, Cornish has not disclosed where she will work next.
In September NPR lost “Weekend Edition Sunday” host Lourdes Garcia-Navarro to a New York Times podcast.
Other people of color recently departing NPR include Shereen Marisol Meraji of “Code Switch,” Maddie Sofia, the host of science program “Short Wave,” Joshua Johnson, host of “1A,” and Noel King, host of “Morning Edition.”
NPR’s president and chief executive, John Lansing, told an all-staff meeting that it is common for media personalities to seek new opportunities, a staff member in attendance at the meeting told the Post.
The staff member, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said, “There seemed to be a lack of acknowledgment that when people leave it’s because they’re not getting something they need in-house and they don’t see a path.”
Ari Shapiro, co-host with Cornish on “All Things Considered,” expressed more urgent concern about the recent exodus of talent.
“If NPR doesn’t see this as a crisis, I don’t know what it will take,” he tweeted. The agency is “hemorrhaging hosts from marginalized backgrounds.”
NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara said the loss of the familiar names is regrettable, but pointed to newly hired journalists of color who will fill the void left by those moving on.
Recent hires include Scott Tong, co-host of “Here and Now,” and A Martinez and Leila Fadel, co-hosts of “Morning Edition.”
“It used to be that hosting a newsmagazine at NPR was the pinnacle,” she said. “Now there are so many opportunities…It’s a very competitive landscape.”
Others at NPR say that the exodus of people of color from the organization results from more than stiff competition for talent.
“People familiar with NPR say its management hasn’t done enough to provide opportunities to minority journalists, especially women,” said the Post.
“I’m sad to see this happening but it is not unexpected,” tweeted Garcia-Navarro. “People leave jobs for other opportunities if they are unhappy with the opportunities they have and the way they have been treated,” she added.
Pineapple Street Studios co-founder Jenna Weiss-Berman has hired several people away from public broadcasting.
“Every single time, what they tell me is, ‘I have no creative freedom, I feel disrespected,’” said Weiss-Berman.
Some of those Weiss-Berman has recruited said they are not allowed to develop new podcasts or programs, she told the Post.
“They’re just told ‘no’ so much when it comes to anything creative. When you’re told ‘no’ a lot, and you see another opportunity where you might be told ‘yes’ a little more, you’re going to take it,” she said.
The Post spoke with Celeste Headlee, whom it described as having “hosted several public radio programs and written extensively about race in the industry.”
“It’s so common for companies to put resources into recruiting people of color and then put no resources into really retaining them or supporting them in the roles they have so that they will continue with the organization,” said Headlee.
NPR, founded in 1970, has a history of providing unprecedented opportunities to women. But it has struggled to diversify its audience and the perspectives of those who host its programs, said the Post.
Headlee described Lansing as being “dead serious about solving these issues. If there ever was a chance for our industry to move forward, now is the time.”
Twenty-one percent of NPR’s radio audience and 42% of its podcast audience are people of color, according to rating firm Nielsen, which provided the data to the Post last year.
NPR staff is 62% White, 15% Black/African American, 12% Asian American, and 7% Latino or Hispanic, said the Post.