As many know, 99pi is a member of Radiotopia, a podcast network produced and distributed in collaboration with PRX. All of the shows in Radiotopia are independent, including 99pi. We are not employed by PRX, but we have worked together for a long time.
PRX has played an important and unique role in the public radio and podcast system, but over the past week, it’s become clear that the organization has crucial work to do if they want to fulfill their mission. A Black member of their staff, Palace Shaw, recently wrote a letter about why she was leaving PRX. She described her experiences with unfair practices and white supremacist culture. She — and others within PRX — have called for change. In Palace’s words, “PRX stands a chance if it takes full accountability and offers real transparency as they hire more Black and non-Black POC with the promise to actually compensate them fairly, respect the expertise and talent they bring, give them power, and take their lead.”
In response, PRX has commissioned an outside investigator to look into the concerns that have been raised. I support this investigation. Other PRX staff members have also demanded greater transparency, accountability, and a better system of checks-and-balances for senior leadership. I will use my power to influence PRX to listen and take action based on the results of the investigation and the feedback they’ve received from current and former employees. I will also use the employees’ guidance and example to lead 99pi more effectively as well. I see ways in which some of these criticisms apply to my own leadership.
Over the last few months, the staff of 99pi have been talking about how to make the show better and more inclusive. It is clear that a mostly white staff will often end up telling stories through a mostly white lens, and fitting non-white stories into a white perspective. Some of my staff, including people of color, have come to me and asked for changes. They have described a workplace that needs better mentorship and development for staff; that needs more people of color in editorial roles; and that needs to address these issues with a greater sense of urgency.
I have listened to their feedback and we’ve started making changes based on their guidance. We are overhauling staff structure, auditing stories to make sure we’re including a wide range of voices, increasing freelancer compensation, adding incentives to encourage a broader range of pitches, and prioritizing diversity in our hiring. We are just beginning the work, but we have set concrete goals and timelines for ourselves. These changes should have happened long ago and they will make our show better in every way.
I support the people trying to change PRX for the better too. This is a moment of reckoning in our industry and we’re all being called upon to do important work to make our community a more genuinely diverse and inclusive place. I have always been proud of my association with PRX and I hold hope they can and will meet this moment of change.