NPR hosts’ departures fuel questions over race. The full story is complex. – NPR – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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(L-R) Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Audie Cornish, Noel King NPR hide caption

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(L-R) Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Audie Cornish, Noel King

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In the wake of a trio of departures, news stories and private messages shared among NPR staffers reflected the concern that Black and Latina stars are leaving the network in droves.

In November, Weekend Edition Sunday host Lulu Garcia-Navarro left to host a podcast for the New York Times opinion section. In December, Noel King departed Morning Edition and Up First for Vox. Last week, All Things Considered and Consider This host Audie Cornish decamped to be a host for CNN’s new streaming service.

“The hosts… are the reason that those shows are so successful, along with all the people working so hard every day on those shows,” John Lansing, NPR’s chief executive, says in an interview. “Losing anybody that we see as super valuable is always a concern.”

Listeners and colleagues have posted laments on social media. All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro said on Twitter that NPR is “hemorrhaging hosts from marginalized backgrounds.” Much of the commentary reflects a belief that NPR has proven incapable of doing the right thing when race is a factor and is willfully or carelessly driving away its future stars, even as it aspires to attract more Black and Latino listeners.

NPR’s senior vice president for news, Nancy Barnes, wrote in a letter to staff on Tuesday that, taken together, the resignations have “created a hole in the heart of the organization.”

Interviews with 11 people with direct knowledge of recent developments, including NPR hosts and executives, suggest NPR indeed struggles to retain high-profile journalists of color. Hosts have complained to the network’s leadership of pay disparities along racial and gender lines. Some say the network does not keep its promises and makes contract negotiations unnecessarily contentious. And several hosts concluded they were made to be the public face of NPR but did not have the network’s full support.

Yet the interviews also yield a more complex picture.

Broadcast news shows no longer hold uniform allure

Major changes within the industry have shifted where many journalists’ ambitions lie. Hosting a traditional radio program no longer holds the same allure it did a generation ago, or even a decade ago. For many, it’s now a combination of old-school prestige and daily


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