The message below was sent by NPR's President and CEO John Lansing to all staff:
As a native Minnesotan, I am heartbroken by the horrendous death of Mr. Floyd at the hands of police in my old neighborhood. And I recognize that, with the evolution of smartphones, we are often witnessing the extrajudicial violence against African Americans and other people of color that has been an epidemic in the U.S. for hundreds of years. In the span of a couple of weeks we have seen the same pattern repeated in Brunswick, Georgia, with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and the outrageous and telling attack on Christian Cooper in NYC by a white woman whom he simply asked to follow the rules so he could peacefully pursue his bird-watching passion. All this while protesters in Louisville, Ky., are demanding answers to the March killing of Breonna Taylor — who was shot by police conducting a raid on her home.
I recognize that these events, coupled with the disproportionate death toll of the coronavirus on communities of color, is heaping extraordinary stress on all communities of color — including our awesome workforce. This is a call to action that forces us to confront our own shortfalls in the NPR culture. That, we are doing and will continue to do, and I know we have miles to go. But let me be clear: this is not the lone responsibility of our colleagues of color, it is everyone's responsibility. Anything that stresses any of us, stresses all of us. We must meet this moment of three potentially world-changing events: a global pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 and counting; an economic collapse that may lead to years of joblessness; and an imperative to finally face up to the racism and racial inequities that are America's original sin. I reiterate that our top priority is to serve younger and more diverse audiences.
I am profoundly thankful to our journalists at NPR and Member stations who are on the front lines covering these events. We are on the ground in Minnesota, with Adrian Florido, Leila Fadel, Noel King and Ashley Westerman of Morning Edition,and David Schaper alongside the team at Minnesota Public Radio. Mary Louise Kelly and Fatma Tanis are heading to Atlanta today. Ari Shapiro and Becky Sullivan will be in Louisville for ATC later this week. This is the first time NPR has sent such a large reporting crew out since COVID-19 began, to join Member stations in their communities. The National Desk under Vickie Walton-James has been remarkable. Bearing witness brings risk. Member station reporters have been tear-gassed, pepper sprayed, arrested, and injured by rubber bullets. Such experiences by journalists in public radio and across the media industry who are doing their work on behalf of the American public are unacceptable.
Now is a time for truth telling, for listening, and for action. As a news organization, we act by bearing witness and elevating voices. As you grapple with these events, listen to Code Switch's episode from the weekend. Pay attention to what journalist Jamil Smith shares with the team and think about how little things have changed.
John F. Lansing
President & CEO