McTaggart to Step Down as CEO of American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio
Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of American Public Media Group

McTaggart to Step Down as CEO of American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio

Move follows employee demands for more diversity and equitable hiring.
Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of American Public Media Group

In a surprise move announced late Tuesday afternoon, St. Paul-based American Public Media Group announced that the board is beginning a search to replace Jon McTaggart, its current president and CEO. McTaggart was tapped in 2011 to replace Bill Kling, founder and longtime leader of Minnesota Public Radio.

The news dropped in an all-staff email from McTaggart and Mary Brainerd, chair of both the American Public Media Group and MPR boards, that landed shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

They saved the big news for the last paragraph noting an “upcoming organizational change.” The email indicates that McTaggart has been discussing succession planning with board leaders for two years and has now asked the board to begin the search for a new CEO. The timing is not clear: McTaggart will remain CEO of American Public Media Group until a successor takes over.

In what is very unlikely to be a coincidence, a group of MPR employees posted a call for “equitable and transparent hiring” at the public radio organization on the “Transform MPR” web site earlier on Tuesday.

McTaggart and Brainerd addressed those issues in their email to staff:

“We are deeply saddened by the pain felt by individuals within our organization. The Board and the entire leadership team are committed to continuing to listen carefully, learn from others, and take actions – guided by our shared values – that ensure a work environment where everyone is truly safe, welcome, respected and appreciated.

Earlier this summer, we announced to Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media staff and our audiences twelve actions that we are taking to accelerate our progress in becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.

We’ve heard from a number of employees that this plan doesn’t yet adequately address concerns about our workplace. Some of our colleagues outlined a series of actions that would further transform MPR to meet the changing needs of the audiences we serve. If our plan isn’t working, we’re going to identify the gaps and expand it to make it work.”

It has already been a year of tumult for APMG/MPR amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In May, leadership offered voluntary buyouts and furloughs to employees. In June, 28 jobs were cut amid layoffs.

Even so, APMG/MPR has many current job openings.

In recent weeks, the network fired Black classical musical broadcaster Garrett McQueen for straying from the mandated playlist to play works by more diverse composers.

Shortly thereafter, MPR veteran Marianne Combs abruptly resigned on Twitter, with a series of posts criticizing editors for not publishing a story about a disc jockey on MPR station The Current over sexual misconduct allegations. Within 36 hours of Combs taking her case to social media, the organization parted ways with Current DJ Eric Malmberg.

The note from McTaggart and Brainerd suggested that there are more tough times ahead: “We’ve discussed many times this year that change and true transformation can be hard and messy, and that it takes time.”

In July 2019, McTaggart sat down with TCB for an in-depth question-and-answer session about the future of APM.