NPR staff push back on news chief's remarks about network's race coverage

NPR staff push back on news chief's remarks about network's race coverage
© Getty
National Public Radio’s news and editorial director is facing internal blowback after comments she made that were critical of the outlet's race relations coverage.
Nancy Barnes, NPR's senior vice president for news, said during an industry conference last week that NPR is "more lacking than we realized" in "disciplined, direct coverage of race relations and the culture wars," according to nonprofit news service Current.
"The network is looking into establishing a beat for that topic," she said during the Public Radio Program Directors Association conference, according to Current. She added that developing new beats “will be an ongoing effort over the next several years."

About 85 newsroom and programming staffers responded in a co-signed email to Barnes for not acknowledging the strides the organization had already made in covering issues around race and hate crimes, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“These words travel and not only are they hurtful, they further marginalize people of color in an organization with historic problems of under-representing and/or dismissing the voices, creativity and work of non-white journalists,” they wrote in the email obtained by the Journal. “Robust coverage of the issues you want to expand has been alive and well.”

On Friday afternoon after the email went public, Barnes apologized in a statement. 

“In my remarks at a recent public radio conference, I shared some thoughts on how we will tackle critical issues, including race and racism,” Barnes said, according to the Journal. “What I intended to convey was that I was looking for more resources to augment this important work on a daily basis.”
“Thank you for sharing your concerns with me; I want you to know that I take them seriously,” Barnes added.

NPR employees are asking Barnes to talk about the issue further in an all-hands town hall meeting, while also calling for more diversity on the NPR leadership level, the newspaper reported.

NPR was founded in 1970 and first started broadcasting in April 1971.