Screenshot of the news department at St. Louis Public Radio 10aug2020

The news department at St. Louis Public Radio.

A St. Louis Public Radio reporter has resigned over allegations of racism as several other reporters of color join her in an online statement about the systemic racism they have encountered at the NPR-affiliated media organization.

Science reporter Eli Chen made the announcement on August 7 on her Twitter account.

“After 4 years@stlpublicradio, next week will be my last. This was a hard choice, since I loved being a local science reporter. But STLPR’s leaders need to change the station’s toxic culture or journalists of color will continue to leave.”

Chen provided a link to a article titled “Racism Exists At St. Louis Public Radio. Acknowledge It,” submitted by the group STLPR Reporters & Producers of Color. The August 7 article describes a “toxic” environment.

“Our station’s leaders need to take responsibility for their role in cultivating a culture that perpetuates racism. St. Louis Public Radio had an all-white newsroom until 2013 and has failed to both racially diversify its staff and retain journalists of color,” the article states.

“The station received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds to increase its diversity in 2017. But even after internal issues were exposed in a Current article, very little changed. Only one out of five journalists in the newsroom is a person of color. After a recent round of layoffs, only one editor of color remains. Included in the layoffs was an editor of color, brought on as part of a CPB-backed diversity project, who oversaw race and identity coverage. The senior leadership team has no individuals of color.”

Screenshot of the leadership team at St. Louis Public Radio.

Chen said she was inspired by another online article written by her colleague, afternoon newscaster Marissanne Lewis-Thompson. The August 7 article, titled “Complicit, Complacent, Or Racist Adjacent - I’m Not Here For Any Of It…,” provides a personal account of the power structure Lewis-Thompson faced.

A supervisor treated me differently than anyone else in the office.

I first brought it up with my Executive Editor Shula Neuman on Feb. 28, 2018 as we wrapped up a story edit. 

I bluntly asked if the supervisor had an issue with me. Did they not like me for some reason? Did I do something wrong? Shula interrupted me with a heavy sigh and said, “I was hoping you wouldn’t have noticed.”

Of course I had noticed.

I noticed how the supervisor was supportive of my white colleagues and their story ideas. I noticed that every time they spoke to me, they’d sigh and their body language would change. I noticed how they were quick to count me out and not give me opportunities to prove myself.

Lewis-Thompson remains employed at St. Louis Public Radio. STLPR Reporters & Producers of Color created an online forum that allows the public to weigh in on the station’s accountability and response to the reporters’ collective allegations. Supporters are tweeting under the hashtag #DoBetterSTLPR. 

“We'd like to create an ‘Anti-Racist Donor Roll’ with a list of current and potential donors who are committed to standing against racism at St. Louis Public Radio,” the page reads. “We'd also like to create an ‘Anti-Racist Listener List’ with testimonials about how journalists of color need to be respected and valued at the station."


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