Capping off a tumultuous two days, Minnesota Public Radio announced the firing of Eric Malmberg, an overnight DJ at 89.3 the Current. Malmberg had been the subject of a stalled investigative report by MPR News’ Marianne Combs into allegations of sexual harassment.
Noting that “listeners and members have reached out to us,” the MPR statement announced “a programmatic change” for the following reason: “Our hosts have to be able to attract an audience that wants to listen to them and trusts them and over the last 36 hours those conditions have changed for Malmberg.”
Pretty vague, passively voiced stuff, even for a corporate press release. Here’s what circumstances had changed: On Monday morning, Marianne Combs, an award-winning reporter with MPR for 23 years, announced via social media that she was leaving the company because of how editors had handled a story she’d been working on for months.
Combs said she had spoken to eight women who had been “sexually manipulated and psychologically abused” by a DJ at the Current. Unable to convince her editors that the story was ready to be published, she says she reached the conclusion that “they have shown such a complete lack of leadership that I no longer have any confidence they will handle the story appropriately." She didn’t mention the DJ by name, but social media accounts were quick to connect the dots and ID him.
Combs’s departure was met with public outcry, which a statement yesterday from MPR president Duchesne Drew failed to quell. "The MPR News editors decided that the story, which deals with complex and sensitive issues, is not ready to run because it does not meet our journalistic standards,” said Drew. He went on Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer Tuesday to further state his case.
The Current faced dissent within its own ranks later on Tuesday. Andrea Swensson of 89.3’s The Local Show tweeted “I believe the eight women who bravely confided in @MarianneSCombs. I trust Marianne’s judgment as an award-winning journalist, and I believe that what she said is true. I believe all survivors who make the terrifying and vulnerable decision to come forward.” More than a dozen staffers, including Jill Riley and Jade Tittle, tweeted the same statement by the end of the day, with many other Twitter users echoing them as well.
By the end of the day, MPR made its announcement and Malmberg was out. And that, we suppose, is that—except for the eight women who stepped forward and still haven’t had the opportunity to tell their stories in full.