APMG president to step down amid calls for racial and gender equity
Jon McTaggart’s decision comes after the departures of two high-profile on-air staff and a letter demanding accountability
Updated: Sept. 23 11:34 a.m. | Posted: Sept. 22 6:29 p.m.
Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of American Public Media Group, announced Tuesday he will be stepping down from his position as soon as his replacement is hired.
“For the past two years, Jon has been discussing CEO succession with leaders of the board and he believes now is the time to begin the transition to new leadership for APMG,” wrote Mary Brainerd, chair of the Minnesota Public Radio and APMG board, in a letter to all staff that was co-signed by McTaggart.
APMG is the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media.
The decision comes on the same day a group of MPR and APM employees wrote an open letter to listeners and audiences describing a lack of faith in senior leaders. It said the company has “fostered a harmful working environment for women and journalists of color” over its 53-year history.
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Brainerd told MPR News Wednesday that critics didn’t force out McTaggart, adding that he had already indicated he wanted to leave the company. She said he wrote a letter to that effect days before the group of employees published the open letter.
The announcement comes after a fraught couple of weeks for the organization.
Earlier this month, MPR fell under scrutiny for firing Garrett McQueen, the company’s only Black classical music host. McQueen told MPR News he was given two warnings by his superiors to improve communication after switching out scheduled music with offerings from more diverse composers. Company officials said McQueen’s changing of the playlists raised copyright concerns and that he had been warned repeatedly over the past year.
Last week, longtime MPR News reporter Marianne Combs resigned after accusing newsroom leadership of dragging their feet on reporting about misconduct relating to an unnamed host of The Current, MPR’s Twin Cities music station. The next day, after several Current hosts tweeted in support of Combs, the company fired DJ Eric Malmberg, saying he lost the trust of his audience.
On Tuesday, a group of MPR and APM employees publicly called out the company’s senior leadership for what it says has been decades of mismanaged racial and gender concerns.
“We are tired of company leadership paying lip service to these issues without taking concrete action to do better. We are tired of yet more listening sessions, tired of repeating ourselves,” states the letter. “We are tired of watching the company’s reputation continue to suffer.”
In the letter sent to employees late Tuesday, Brainerd and McTaggart addressed those concerns.
“We are deeply saddened by the pain felt by individuals within our organization,” they wrote. “The Board and the entire leadership team are committed to continuing to listen carefully, learn from others, and take actions — guided by our shared values — that ensure a work environment where everyone is truly safe, welcome, respected and appreciated.”
Brainerd told MPR News Wednesday that the company demographics reflect a lot of attention to those issues under McTaggart’s leadership.
“APM and MPR are pretty diverse organizations today. About half the employees are women, and about 25 percent are people of color,” Brainerd said, “but there’s a big difference between what you see in the numbers and how people feel.”
Asked for a response to the letter, the union stewards for APM Reports and MPR News said while they recognized McTaggart’s “significant steps” to expand APMG, “it was clear that there was employee dissatisfaction throughout the company. We hope that the board considers candidates who prioritize workplace culture, hiring diversity and executive compensation limits when making their decision on the new CEO."
The board will announce succession plans soon, and that McTaggart will remain in his role until his replacement is found, according to the letter from the CEO and board chair.
McTaggart is only the second CEO of APMG and started with the company in 1983. He was appointed in 2011 to succeed Bill Kling, who founded MPR 44 years earlier.