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NPR Employees Pen Letter To CEO Rebuking Berliner's Op-Ed

Staff urged network heads to 'publicly and directly' call out the op-ed's 'factual inaccuracies and elisions'

NPR Employees Pen Letter To CEO Rebuking Berliner's Op-Ed

A group of roughly 50 NPR employees penned a letter to new CEO Katherine Maher and Editor-in-Chief Edith Chapin calling for their public "support and defense" of reporters throughout the outlet whose work has been called into question by former Senior Business Editor Uri Berliner.

The letter, originally shared by The New York Times' Ben Mullin on X, panned Berliner's recent op-ed with The Free Press — in which the former NPR editor called the network's journalistic integrity and editorial direction into question — and requested "stronger support" from Maher and Chapin. The letter also urges more "transparency" from network heads on NPR's policy for "unauthorized public comments."

"While your internal notes to staff last week and developments this week were informative, there are still unanswered questions about how NPR staff are expected to conduct themselves," the letter reads, referencing statements issued by Chapin and Maher in response to Berliner's op-ed.

The employees noted Maher and Chapin were in a difficult situation handling internal conflict in the public eye, though added staff had questions about the network's operations moving forward.

"What and who are our standards for? Are we all being held to the same scrutiny? And will we all be going forward?" staff asked in the letter.

The letter specifically expresses concern for NPR's editorial direction, noting staff from "marginalized backgrounds" have previously pushed for policy changes including "[a] DEI accountability committee, sharing of affinity group guidelines, and an ad-hoc content review group."

"Our impression is that an unauthorized public comment like this has attracted more attention and immediate reaction from leadership than those longstanding efforts — it appears to have ushered in a monthly content review board that has been under discussion," the letter continued, asking how network heads would account for Berliner's public comments having attracted "harassment" for his colleagues. "For every person who might tear down their colleagues in public, there are scores of people steadily trying to make change from within. Sending the message that a public essay is the easiest way to make change is setting a bad precedent, regardless of the ideologies being expressed."

The staff then offered several suggestions for Maher and Chapin to consider, including clarifying the precedent set by Berliner for colleagues going forward, and providing detailed consequences for reporters who repeatedly violate NPR's code of conduct. The letter also requests public support from Maher and Chapin for individuals whose work was "directly undermined" by Berliner's op-ed, along with "publicly and directly" rebuking the op-ed's "factual inaccuracies and elisions."

"Clearer communication around and response to these concerns would go a long way toward helping restore some sense of the collective morale that has eroded within the last week; without true leadership, resentment and discontent are festering among your staff," staff continued. "And the silence only serves to legitimize his essay, even if that is not your intent."

"We work at NPR because we believe in public media and its ability to educate, inform, and affect its audiences. We strive to do this by being truly open to a 'diversity of viewpoints,' and wish to continue doing so without having our journalistic integrity called into question by one of our own colleagues," they concluded.

On Wednesday morning, Berliner resigned from NPR after serving the outlet for 25 years.

“I am resigning from NPR, a great American institution where I have worked for 25 years,” he wrote in a statement posted on X. “I respect the integrity of my colleagues and wish for NPR to thrive and do important journalism.”

“But I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay,” he added.

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