After Harassment Report, NPR Is Intent On Instilling Trust In Management

Feb 21, 2018
Originally published on February 21, 2018 6:35 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now we have news about NPR News. This organization's corporate board released a report from an outside law firm. It says the network failed to head off alleged misconduct by former chief news executive Michael Oreskes. The report says people raised concerns even before he was hired. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says the findings go beyond Oreskes to NPR's culture.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Wonya Lucas is the president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta. She's also an NPR corporate director, heading up the board's special committee overseeing NPR's response to the scandal. Lucas says she was struck by findings that NPR employees perceive its culture favors men.

WONYA LUCAS: That was very disturbing on many levels, I must say. And having attended a staff meeting and hearing many people describe the culture as they see it and live it, it was sobering.

FOLKENFLIK: Lucas says changing NPR's culture is hard but vital work.

LUCAS: I know there are plans to look at pay and promotion equity, which is incredibly important. People feel valued when they feel like they're being paid equally and fairly and that they have an opportunity to be promoted in a fair way.

FOLKENFLIK: The investigation by law firm Morgan Lewis also detailed ways NPR's leadership failed to address Oreskes' conduct effectively. Within six months of Oreskes' arrival in 2015, two female NPR journalists filed complaints to HR, alleging he had engaged them over drinks and dinner in conversation that became intrusively personal. In at least one instance, he turned talk to sex. NPR's chief attorney Jonathan Hart swiftly warned Oreskes of those complaints that such conduct could not recur. And for the next two years, NPR executives did not field another such complaint from an NPR journalist.

But questions were raised repeatedly about other misconduct - charging non-business meals to the not-for-profit network, particularly drinks and meals with women - in this case, younger women who did not work for NPR. Digital exchanges showed he actively sought out such interactions - even with female college students according to the report.

Officials including Hart, NPR's chief operating officer, its chief financial officer and ultimately NPR CEO Jarl Mohn all warned Oreskes at various points that his conduct was inappropriate. But Mohn did not demand Oreskes his resignation until after concerns about past misconduct surfaced publicly in the press. Paul Haaga is chairman of NPR's board.

PAUL HAAGA: They wish they'd put things together rather than - better than they did and communicated them better and drawn the conclusions about Mike Oreskes sooner than they did. And we all feel that way.

FOLKENFLIK: Haaga says that he retains full faith in Mohn and the leadership team. The board is to receive feedback from NPR staffers tomorrow.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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