The Front Page: Wait wait… Don’t sue me

It’s Friday, January 14th. 

NPR’s former director of broadcast engineering is suing the network for discrimination on the basis of race and age.

InsideRadio reports that Kevin Langley, who worked at NPR for 25 years, is seeking at least $5 million in damages and a new position at the network. Langley’s allegations include pay discrimination, termination without cause, and failure to promote, among other examples of reported overt discrimination.

Before his dismissal in 2019, Langley filed five separate equal employment opportunity complaints with the company that “went nowhere.” In the meantime, according to court filings, NPR continued to hire and retain young, white engineers.

Related: Women allege racism, sexism at food media company Feedfeed (The Washington Post)

Last year, NPR tech workers—including engineers—unionized as Digital Media United with the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 31. However, NABET-CWA does not represent managers, so Langley would have been represented by NPR’s SAG-AFTRA shop.

Robert Williams, president of NABET-CWA Local 31, advises media employees—working in editorial and production roles—to unionize as soon as they’re able, as doing so can be crucial in situations similar to Langley’s. “We have lawyers for them, they would have protection. Even if [employers] intend that they have just cause to dismiss you, the union can endorse you.”

Unfortunately, it’s likely the discrimination Langley cites isn’t unique to NPR’s tech workers. Critics have drawn attention to the myriad journalists of color who have left the network—and its member stations—in recent months, including Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Noel King, and Audie Cornish (who have all said they left for various reasons).

In 2021, NPR reported that 38% of employees self-identified as people of color, compared to about 30% in 2018. 2021 data also shows 35% of supervisors and 32% of audience facing journalists (which includes hosts) identify as people of color. Though data shows improvement, NPR’s staff is still overrepresented by white people when compared to 2020 census data, and NPR itself has acknowledged that it needs to improve retention.

The Objective reached out to NPR for comment on the suit and/or Langley’s previous internal complaints. Spokesperson Isabel Lara stated that NPR does not comment on pending litigation but that the company is “committed to ensuring NPR is a workplace where everyone can do their best work.” The suit was initially filed with the Superior Court of D.C., but was moved to the U.S. District Court for D.C. on January 4.


A Bit More Media

Q/A: Francisco Vara-Orta — Last week, Objective deputy editor Janelle Salanga spoke with Francisco Vara-Orta, IRE’s director of diversity and inclusion, about sustainable progress and evolving attitudes in journalism: “Progress does not mean perfection.” Read the full interview here.

“Mad at all of this” — Ben Smith’s decision to start a new media organization, and the responses to his announcement, show us the dangers of heroizing media personalities, especially when their successes often come at the expense of “overextended, underpaid and eventually laid off” employees, writes Alex Sujong Laughlin. Smith, formerly at The New York Times, is launching the new company with Bloomberg Media’s Justin Smith.

“Who gets to investigate?” — For Study Hall, Chantal Flores writes how journalists of color are excluded from investigative reporting: “When the issues become so visible that their coverage is considered mandatory, journalists of color are seen as not being objective enough due to their proximity to the community.” 

NABJ statement on Black News Channel — The National Association of Black Journalists is “disgusted” by harassment, discrimination, and pay disparity allegations at Black News Channel (BNC). Thirteen current and former female employees of BNC filed a lawsuit earlier this month, which BNC seeks to dismiss. NABJ says it has corroborated many of the claims and that BNC has agreed to meet with the NABJ board.

Pivot Fund launches — Founded by Tracie Powell, the Pivot Fund plans to invest $500 million into independent, BIPOC-led community news organizations “through funding, capacity building, skills-based trainings, and networking opportunities.” In addition to Powell, other founding staff members include Jean Marie Brown, Ashley Covey, and Megan Russo.

Washington Post responds to editor’s tweet — Last week, Post editor Lori Montgomery criticized a column that included sexual assault allegations against NFL player Ben Roethlisberger, whom Montgomery defended. Montgomery deleted the tweet after pushback and a spokesperson from the Post claims the issue has been “addressed internally.”


Stay Up To Date 

6 days until … The Post-COVID Newsroom. This webinar organized by the Press Club of Long Island focuses on work after the pandemic and features perspectives from news leaders and an infectious disease specialist. 

6 days until … Reframing Perceptions: Asian American Women Journalist Trailblazers. Joie Chen, Weijia Jiang, and Helen Zia join this conversation hosted by the 1990 Institute and the US-China Education Trust.

14 days until … The Color of Money, a virtual lecture presented by NYU’s Business and Economic Reporting Program and the Marjorie Deane Financial Journalism Foundation. University of California Irvine professor Mehrsa Baradaran headlines the webinar. 

17 days until … the end of early-bird registration for NABJ’s inaugural HBCYou Training Day. ($$$) The virtual job fair, which is the “first major project of the NABJ HBCU Initiative,” takes place on February 26, 2022.

What events should we feature? You tell us. Reply directly or send an email to [email protected].


A few more resources

For your portfolio website: If you identify as a journalist with a background historically underrepresented in journalism, Authory will provide you with a free one-year account to back up your articles (a $96 value). 

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | Source Jobs | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian Pacific AmericaNAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook 

Our stories are funded by readers like you. 

The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.

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