NPR Fires a Top Black Manager

by Richard Prince, Journal-isms

Less than 24 hours after hosting the National Association of Black Journalists at its headquarters in Washington, National Public Radio let go the black journalist in charge of its newscasts, Greg Peppers, one of two black men in newsroom management at the network.

Peppers, who has been with NPR since the 1980s, was escorted out of the building Friday, colleagues said. He was executive producer of NPR's newscast unit.

"We don't comment on [an] employee's reasons for departure or any other personnel matters," spokeswoman Anna Christopher told Journal-isms.

Peppers did not respond to messages left at his home.

An internal note from David Sweeney, managing editor of NPR News, gave no hint of the reasons for Pepper's departure. It said:

"Greg Peppers has left his position as Executive Producer, Newscast.

"Our thanks to Greg for his many contributions to NPR over the years. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

"Effective immediately, Dave Pignanelli will temporarily take over as manager of the unit. Dave will be closely working with Stu Seidel and me during this transition period. Over the coming weeks, Dick Meyer, Stu and I will begin the search for a new Newscast leader."

Pepper's NPR bio notes, "NPR's newscasts are a twenty-four-hour, seven-day-a-week operation. NPR broadcasts thirty-eight newscasts a day that are heard on more than 700 member stations and overseas on armed forces radio."

Peppers joined NPR from Providence, R.I., where he worked for an all-news radio station. "In the 1980s, Peppers joined the staff of NPR as a part-time news writer. He later worked as an assistant producer for NPR's classical music program 'Performance Today.' Seventeen years later, he moved into his current role with NPR's newscast unit," the bio says.

Peppers' departure leaves Keith W. Jenkins, supervising senior producer for multimedia, as the sole African American man in NPR newsroom management. Jenkins joined NPR last year after taking a buyout from the Washington Post, where he was multimedia director.

Last year, NPR dismissed Doug Mitchell, an NPR employee of more than 20 years who has trained scores of young journalists of color to enter broadcasting. A number of African American men on-air, ranging from former hosts Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon and reaching back to Sunni Khalid, the former Cairo bureau chief who in 1997 filed a $2 million discrimination suit against the network, have had issues with NPR over the years. Khalid and NPR reached a settlement in 2003.

Vivian Schiller, NPR's president and chief executive, told a National Press Club audience in Washington in March that NPR needs to do a better job reflecting "the full spectrum of . . . our potential listenership" in its most popular programs, "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered."

"And in those programs, both in the staffing of those programs, in the stories that we tell, in the guests that we interview, we need to make sure that we are constantly thinking about a diversity of audience. So rather than having a special program that is just for African Americans or a special program that is just for Latino listeners, we needed to be represented in the fabric of everything that we do," she said.

article originally published at Journal-isms.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey