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MPR reporter resigns, cites stalled investigation into allegedly abusive Current DJ

Note the headline zipper at MPR HQ in 2017.

Note the headline zipper at MPR HQ in 2017. Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune

More bad PR for MPR. 

Days after Minnesota Public Radio sparked online blowback for firing Garrett McQueen, its classical station's only Black DJ, its news division lost veteran reporter Marianne Combs, who says she's resigning to protest leadership's handling of her #MeToo reporting. 

Combs — winner of SPJ's Journalist of the Year award in June for in-depth coverage of sex crimes at Children's Theatre Co. — was working on a story about an allegedly abusive DJ at 89.3 the Current, MPR's sister station. The unnamed employee continues to use "his status as a DJ at the Current to attract and further torment young women," Combs wrote Monday in an open resignation letter. 

Combs's story cleared all the legal hurdles, she writes, but her bosses kept stalling. 

"They described him as 'a real creep,' but worried that airing a story about his behavior would invite a lawsuit," she writes. "While the editors have not gone so far as to cancel the story, they have shown such a complete lack of leadership that I no longer have any confidence they will handle the story appropriately."

So, citing a need for "leadership, a moral compass and courage," the 23-year MPR News vet called it quits. 

"I’m resigning to show my continued support for these women," she writes. "Their stories matter, their trauma is real, and the issues their experiences raise are relevant to all women, as well as all parents."

Click here to read Combs's full statement.

Duchesne Drew, president of MPR, stands by Combs's editors. 

"We were shocked by Marianne Combs’s decision to resign her position at MPR News. That said, I fully support the editors who reviewed her story," he says in a statement issued to City Pages. "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. In fact, they were blindsided by Marianne’s resignation and expected that she was continuing to work on the story."

View Drew's full statement here

It's been a rough few years at St. Paul-based American Public Media, which owns MPR and the Current. It canned iconic host Garrison Keillor in 2017 following allegations of "dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents." In 2020 alone, more than 40 staffers have been laid off or accepted buyouts; executive pay ⁠— which you can view here ⁠— was trimmed by 20-35 percent.