Nancy Barnes, NPR’s senior vice president for news, said last week at an industry conference that the network’s coverage of race is “more lacking than we realized,” according to a report in the nonprofit news service Current. She also lamented a lack of “disciplined, direct coverage of race relations and the culture wars.” Ms. Barnes said the network was looking into establishing a beat for that topic.
In response, about 85 of NPR’s 569 newsroom and programming staffers cosigned an email sent Thursday to Ms. Barnes, who was named NPR’s top news executive last year, saying she failed to recognize the strides they have made in covering racism, anti-Semitism and hate-driven violence.
“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, according to The Hill.
“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.