CAB MINUTES: JANUARY 2018
- Brief NY Public Radio Update: Laura Walker, President & CEO, NYPR
- In Conversation: Matt Katz, WNYC On-Air Reporter
- Public Comments
- CAB Business
- Chair Barbara Gerolimatos began the meeting by stating the mission of the CAB and described the format for the evening’s meeting. The CAB then approved the minutes from Nov 28, 2017 and the agenda for Jan 9, 2018.
UPDATE FROM LAURA WALKER, CEO & PRESIDENT
- Laura Walker gave a brief public update about WNYC. She stressed that this is a critical time for the media and that we are witnessing a national shift about workplace culture and the station is working to create an environment where everyone is respected. NYPR has an opportunity to set a new standard – both a moral responsibility and business responsibility. NYPR cannot do the work unless they live their values; diversity, equity and inclusion cannot be an afterthought.
- She acknowledged that many of the guests were there because they had questions about the actions NYPR took and she wanted to come speak directly to them to explain the changes and what they mean for the programming.
- She said that NYPR could no longer continue to employ Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz because they received complaints about Lopate’s behavior over a year ago and he was given an official warning that he was behaving inappropriately and was asked to get sexual harassment training. New allegations of inappropriate behavior arose again and NYPR hired an independent investigator that uncovered a pattern of inappropriate behavior among the two men that violated NYPR’s standards. The decision was made to terminate their employment.
- Both were recognized for their incredible contributions to NYPR, but the higher commitment is to maintain a respectful environment. If the station is going to lead courageous conversations on the air, it must have them internally.
- The NYPR Board of Directors has engaged an outside investigator, Proskauer Rose, to understand what happened and what went wrong. Their report will include a review of where NYPR’s policies went wrong and will inform NYPR on processes around culture and work.
- NYPR is creating change from the inside out. Specific changes include:
o Focusing on who we are. People, staff, guests, listeners are the most important people;
o Reviewing HR policies, sexual harassment training, assessing improvements to per diem resources, reviewing results of a organizational culture survey, rollout of 3-year plan of diversity, equality, inclusion, looking at organizational structure;
o What we do – programs that makes us a leader; and
- Focus on how we communicate – hear what the community has to say; what it means to be transparent and accountable. Walker also acknowledged that NYPR heard concerns from the last meeting and will no longer accept sponsorship from a specific company (name not shared)
MATT KATZ, WNYC ON-AIR REPORTER
- Matt Katz described his journalistic journey, stressing that he always wanted to be a reporter; this was later corroborated by his parents who were also in the audience. He described his coverage of Chris Christie, who the next day, after 8 years, would be leaving the NJ Governorship. He reviewed much of the details uncovered during his pursuit of the players involved in the Bridge-gate scandal. He noted that Christie started out in office with a very high approval rating, and yet, was leaving tomorrow with one of the lowest approval ratings of any recently elected official. Katz noted some of the behaviors of Mr. Christie’s combative personality that contributed to his ever-decreasing popularity and showed one video clip of his grandstanding denial of any knowledge of the closing the George Washington Bridge. Katz noted that the cell phone that Christie was using at that time has yet to be recovered. He also pointed out that Christopher Wray, the newly appointed FBI Director, is Christie’s personal attorney from the Bridge-gate investigation.
- Katz then introduced his new podcast series, Unsettled: A Story from the Global Refugee Crisis, which would begin airing on WNYC on Jan 22nd. The coverage of this series would also include a print story in the Times, daily on-air morning reports and coverage on All Things Considered. This series focuses on the life a Twendele, a Democratic Republic of Congo refugee, who currently lives and works in New Jersey. He shared Twendele’s brush with death and ultimate journey to New Jersey. Along the way, this refugee met a woman and married her in a refugee camp, and now struggles to bring his bride to the United States. With Donald Trump’s election, strict limitations have been placed on the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. Twendele’s wife is stuck in the policy change and is still in the refugee camp. Katz explored the implications for this family and others with the change in policies and how the lives of ordinary people are affected. Katz also noted that there would be a panel discussion on US Refugee Policy on January 22nd in the Greene Space.
PUBLIC FEEDBACK SESSION
- About 50 members of the public attended the meeting. The Chair, Barbara Gerolimatos, systematically called on each member of the public who wished to provide feedback to the CAB, moving from right to left, until everyone had the opportunity to express their anger, disappointment, and/or suggestions for improved transparency by NYPR. The feedback generally fell into the following sentiments:
○ An extreme sense of loss of a favorite radio host
○ A demand to know specifics of termination and specifically what was the offending behavior (not possibly due to confidentiality issues)
○ Confirmations of the station’s membership terminations, often sustaining ones, because of the terminations
○ An intense disappointment in the lack of transparency demonstrated by NYPR management
○ A high degree of skepticism that the CAB is a valid vehicle for transmitting feedback to management
○ A mistrust about the firm, Proskauer Rose, that investigated the allegations
○ A strong recommendation from Richard Wooley, a lawyer who worked with Anita Hill at the time of the confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas, that NYPR post the sexual harassment policies that were violated to enhance transparency
○ A demand/petition to bring Lopate back.
- New CAB member application process discussed recommended improvements in the recruitment processes, which included: Adding more diversity; shortening the application; detailing the recommended demographic recruitment needs; creation of a toolkit for outreach; simplification of web page, and the tightening of the application.
- CAB discussed next steps for the CAB in response to tonight's meeting and the large number of attendees and passionate feedback about the terminations of Lopate and Schwartz; CAB expressed overwhelming support for another meeting to discuss CAB’s response re public feedback and recommendations for NYPR.
- CAB recommended improvements in meeting format, including recording name of public attendees providing feedback; better collection of public attendee names, and discussion of possibility of having a MOP, CAB member or outsider as the invited meeting host/speaker.
- CAB member noted that there are many facets to the recent crisis and many ways that it is being perceived by various groups of listeners. CAB recommended action by the CAB to demonstrate a balanced, transparent response to current crisis so as not to risk losing credibility with the public and to enhance the CAB’s perceptions as a legitimate and meaningful conduit for public to the staff/management, thereby fulfilling the CAB mandate. Suggested actions for the CAB included:
o Collecting and compiling letters of both support and criticism from the public around this issue, to be forwarded to the Board of Trustees and Alex Murray, CAB liaison
o Express support for some of the initiatives put forth by management (i.e., NYPR management’s suggestion of a possible station ombudsman)
o Other items that shows a public/transparent dialogue with management.
- CAB to develop a response /letter to be sent to Laura Walker and Mayo Stutz, Board of Trustee Chair, supporting the need for improved NYPR transparency and recommendations to enhance the communication processes to support improved and meaningful public feedback.
CAB MEMBERS (alphabetically)
Andrew Greene (resigned)
Barbara Gerolimatos, Chair
David N. Sztyk (excused)
Grace Clarke, Vice-chair
Jacob Wojnas, Vice-chair
Mary White, BoT Liaison
Lue Ann Eldar (resigned)
Nancy Walcott, Vice-chair (excused)
Samantha "Sam" Pedreiro (Phone)
Stan Ince (excused)
Theodore Schweitzer (excused)
Alan Weiler (sub), BoT
*italics = not present