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By Jacquie Lee
Over 150 NPR staff members met with their union representatives Nov. 6 to hash out next steps for preventing sexual harassment at the company, a union steward told Bloomberg Law.
Among those next steps is a push for a third party to take a “culture audit” of the newsroom, Lauren Migaki, a producer at NPR, said. Migaki is also a steward for the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents more than 400 people at National Public Radio.
The questionnaire would focus on the culture of sexual harassment in the newsroom, and management could “find out where there are problems,” she said. The staff is also looking for more transparency within the human resources department.
“We want to know what the process is for someone filing a complaint” and what the procedure is for someone who is facing retaliation because of that complaint, she said.
In a Nov. 3 memo, NPR’s CEO said the company will create a team of “trained employees” to work in tandem with human resources to handle complaints. NPR didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment regarding its complaint process or what specific type of training the new team would have.
The Nov. 6 meeting was smaller than the all-staff forum held Nov. 3, which included NPR CEO Jarl Mohn. The topics of both assemblies surrounded the ouster of former Senior Vice President for News Michael Oreskes for allegedly sexually harassing women during his tenure at NPR and The New York Times. Oreskes is a part of the growing wave of men who have been pushed out of their jobs because they’ve been accused of assaulting or harassing their colleagues.
In the Nov. 3 memo, Mohn said NPR’s board will hire lawyers independent of the company to review Oreskes’ case. Management will share the results of that investigation with staff.
NPR also plans to “strengthen” employee training on sexual harassment. “Every person at NPR needs to have a multi-dimensional understanding of harassment. I include myself in that,” Mohn wrote.
The current training is lackluster, Migaki said. “Now it doesn’t seem like it’s comprehensively required for all employees,” she said. “It’s been years since I took it, and I was at NPR as a temp for two years before I was required to take it,” she said.
Some of the most in-depth reporting regarding sexual harassment at NPR has been done by NPR reporters themselves. Mary Louise Kelly interviewed Mohn on All Things Considered the day Oreskes resigned. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik unearthed five additional testimonies from women accusing Oreskes of inappropriate behavior.
As journalists, it’s never ideal to be a part of the news rather than writing about it, Migaki said, but “I think that it has also empowered a lot of women to come forward about sexual harassment that they hadn’t previously considered reporting.”
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