Boston Globe: External Investigation Probes Workplace Culture

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Excerpts from the Boston Globe

“A personnel situation occurred in our newsroom and we've dealt with it,” said CEO Susan Goldberg

About a dozen employees of 89.7 GBH, the National Public Radio affiliate, were in a conference room with the VP of human resources.

She'd just revealed the results of a three-month investigation into complaints about the station's culture. The mood was tense. A bullying allegation against a top editor had not been substantiated, but the inquiry did confirm senior managers made inappropriate comments about employees' race, age, and gender by referring to “old white men” when discussing newsroom diversity…

Listeners of “” and “All Things Considered” can't hear it, but there's considerable static inside GBH's Brighton headquarters at the moment. Several staffers, including Braude, say there's an undercurrent of fear and intimidation fostered by domineering bosses whose push to make the station more relevant online — on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok — has affected morale and undermined the radio and TV broadcasting that has been GBH's bread-and-butter. They cite weak ratings that rank the radio station barely in the top 10 in the Boston market. Management, meanwhile, says the station is undergoing a major transformation,which can be difficult.

“Substantial change can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and impact morale,” Pam Johnston, the general manager of GBH News, told employees at a series of meetings to discuss the investigators' report. “It should never make people feel like they haven't been heard or that their contributions don't count. . . . I've heard that people felt that way from some of my comments, and for that I apologize.”

Lee Hill, GBH News's executive editor, also apologized. “If at any time, words or actions by me have made anyone feel like they don't belong at the table, I'm sorry,” he told the staff. “That's not my intention.”…

GBH has increased the diversity of its newsroom since Johnston arrived. In 2021, she hired Hill, who's Black, as executive editor. He previously worked at WNYC as the executive producer of “The Takeaway,” leaving the station a few months after Vega departed. When Johnston took over in 2020, 19 of GBH News's 109 employees were people of color; today, 27 of 125 are.

Crossley suggested that some of the discontent with Johnston and Hill may reflect an unease or anxiety about GBH's efforts to make its newsroom less white. Asked if she thinks there's resistance to increasing diversity, Goldberg replied with one word: No.

“Like every organization, we have things we need to do better — people who can do better in their jobs, myself included, and we're working on it,” she said.

4 Comments

  1. Charles Kelley on February 19, 2024 at 5:16 pm

    Wait… So news a GBH radio has 125 employees? It’s not just Robert J. Lurtsema ripping copy off the AP teletype in the hallway and editing it down for broadcast?

    I guess I have some catching up to do ;)

  2. Chas Norton on February 18, 2024 at 10:46 pm

    Does the LICBC still exist?

  3. Alex Pirie on February 18, 2024 at 5:42 pm

    Tip of the hat to Fred’s suggestions! Get out of that palace of an office building and take a look around, take risks. We live in a region rich in argumentative, creative, fascinating people, let’s hear from them and watch them do whatever it is that they do. We did it once before and on a shoestring (OK, duct tape!). It can be done again. GBH needs to shed its corporate caution. And thank you, Jim and Marjorie for arguing! More of that and more local production!

  4. Christine Lear on February 18, 2024 at 5:17 pm

    Comment from Fred Barzyk:

    After reading the article about the turmoil at GBH FM, I felt that the alumni could help the situation. We cannot get into the relationship between management and staff, but we can suggest programs that move GBH up and over the ratings of BUR.

    That is the least we can do.

    I’ll start. Here is one idea.
    A MIT researcher, who lives in Austin, Texas, has one of the largest following on YouTube. It is more than 3 times the size of the PBS channel. His conversations with scientists and academics are drawing huge audience to his Podcasts. His name is Lex Fridman.
    His work could be featured on GBH FM in conjunction with MIT (part of the LICBC)
    He doesn’t need access to people or money. What GBH FM brings is a whole new audience to his work. Taking the best of his work and editing it into a series, would not require extra work from Lex. It could be a win-win for both parties.
    A meeting with him should be scheduled.
    If he declines, GBH should then reboot the idea with someone else doing the same kind of investigative work. The idea is the strength of the concept. There are others who are capable of such work. Will that work?
    I point to Antiques Road Show. It is a spinoff of a BBC series. GBH was able to reformat and build its own audience and it is one of the most popular shows on PBS. We can do it again.
    This is a natural for GBH FM: low cost, attracts an educated audience, ( Fridman is young) and attract a younger audience with the right host.
    It could also morph into an idea from the past…
    “A Teach In”. Imagine, a large student audience gathers to see Elon Musk and (academic who says go fast). They argue about the future of AI. Will AI destroy Humans?
    The guests are seen on large screens in a ZOOM setup.
    Our host holds it all together.
    And this time it airs on GBH TV.

    – Fred Barzyk

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