In late 2017, as the #MeToo movement exposing workplace sexual abuse gathered pace, New York Public Radio (NYPR) station WNYC was rocked by its own scandal. Namely, that former host John Hockenberry had bullied and sexually harassed numerous colleagues over the past decade. Days later, similar accusations were leveled at two more male veteran broadcasters, with further stories about other individuals filtering through. According to multiple employees, senior management knew of some complaints yet failed to take meaningful action. However, many other incidents had gone unreported, largely because the (mostly young female) victims feared for their jobs, believed that HR was ineffectual and presenters ‘untouchable’. For an avowedly progressive organisation that espoused values such as equality, inclusivity and diversity, it was a particularly bad look.
CEO Laura Walker began 2018 determined to overhaul the organisation’s approach to dealing with bullying and harassment, and in turn, gain the confidence of cynical and disillusioned staff. It was also vital to restore the faith of listeners, donors and sponsors who held NYPR to a higher standard than most media outlets and were essential to its survival. But despite swiftly sacking two allegedly abusive hosts, introducing HR reforms and launching an investigation into the extent of discrimination and bullying, many staffers were far from satisfied. They still sought answers as to exactly what senior management knew and did about past incidents, and felt that NYPR leadership had not been made sufficiently accountable.
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