By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Globe portrays GBH News as an operation beset by turmoil and toxicity

Photo (cc) 2019 by Dan Kennedy

Early this morning, The Boston Globe published an in-depth story documenting turmoil at GBH News, the local operation at the public media giant that encompasses television, radio and digital. The article, by Mark Shanahan, largely focuses on what some (but not all) employees describe as a toxic workplace culture and hostility toward “old white men.”

The leaders who come under criticism in Shanahan’s reporting are general manager Pam Johnston and executive editor Lee Hill, both of whom apologized to the staff after an internal investigation found, as Shanahan writes, that “senior managers made inappropriate comments about employees’ race, age, and gender by referring to ‘old white men’ when discussing newsroom diversity.” (Johnston turned down Shanahan’s request for an interview, but Ellen Clegg and I hosted her on our “What Works” podcast back in March 2022.)

The two most outspoken voices in the story belong to Jim Braude, co-host of GBH Radio’s “Boston Public Radio,” and Callie Crossley, host of “Under the Radar with Callie Crossley” and cohost of “The Culture Show,” both of which are radio programs.

“People fear for their jobs,” Braude, who’s white, told the Globe, adding: “People testified about mistreatment. Much of it was confirmed. No one was held responsible. Now people have to report to the same person they testified against and pray their supervisor doesn’t know they did.”

Crossley, who’s Black, has a very different view. “Bias, bullying, and intimidation cannot be tolerated, that’s absolutely correct,” she’s quoted as saying. “But I want to be clear: That. Did. Not. Happen. Here.” She also offers some context, saying, “People assume there’s a higher level of civility at public media stations, but I want to correct that. People may assume that based on ‘Masterpiece Theater,’ but newsrooms in public radio are exactly the same as they are anyplace else.”

There’s much more to the story, including angst over falling ratings, some good news on the digital side, and quotes from GBH’s newish chief executive, Susan Goldberg, that everyone is “moving on.” If you care about GBH and public media in general, I urge you to read it.

Beyond that, I really can’t say much. If you’re reading this, you probably know that I was part of GBH News for many years, mainly as a panelist on “Beat the Press with Emily Rooney” throughout its entire run, from 1998 to 2021, but also as a weekly columnist for the website (a stint I ended in 2022) and an occasional guest on radio. I’m also friends with a number of current and former GBH folks.

Shanahan appears to have done an excellent job of bringing GBH’s internal problems into the open, where they belong (remember, this is public media), and I wish the station well in moving beyond this.

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6 Comments

  1. Bruce M

    A magnanimous review of an unfortunate but entirely too common situation in workplaces everywhere.

  2. Danny Reid

    Braude, the on-air and occasional off-air bully, is a fine one to talk, after his treatment of Mish Michaels.

  3. Jay Griffin

    Thanks Dan for the direction here. Change is hard. For an old white man myself, especially so. Bosses at GBH used wrong and blunt language when addressing their employees. Workers, when afraid, grab for a handy defense. That is to claim racism, ageism or another discrimination. Dan, business needs to stay profitable. Some tough decisions will be made.

  4. Donna Halper

    One of the worst decisions WGBH (or, now, GBH) ever made was canceling Beat the Press. Now more than ever, insightful critiques of the media are desperately needed, and Beat the Press provided them. (Disclaimer: I was a guest on the program twice; but I also watched it faithfully, and utilized segments in my media analysis courses. I found it to be a very valuable program. I still miss it.)

  5. Chris Schiavone

    I’m sympathetic to the notion that public media owes the community unusual transparency. But I’m not sure I’d sure I characterize this reporting as “excellent.” Much of the reporter’s previous work has been as a gossip columnist. So, was this deep journalistic reporting or simply the opportunity to feast on the spectacle of a news room in flux?

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