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Thursday, September 24, 2020

General Manager Tim Eby Is Done at St. Louis Public Radio

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2020 at 12:06 PM

click to enlarge St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby is being replaced. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby is being replaced.

Update: In a news release sent Friday afternoon, UMSL said Eby will serve as a consultant for six months to help with the transition.

Longtime general manager for St. Louis Public Radio (90.7 KWMU) Tim Eby is "no longer serving in that role," according to an email sent to staffers Thursday morning, announcing his exit from the station.

The email, sent by University of Missouri-St. Louis' Vice Chancellor of Advancement Paul Herring, says that the station has hired Tom Livingston of Livingston Associates to serve as interim general manager "effective immediately." (St. Louis Public Radio operates as part of UMSL.)

Eby had held the title of general manager at STLPR for nearly twelve years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Herring's email is light on details in regard to Eby's ouster, instead focusing on Livingston's credentials (which are outlined in similar language here). But the close of the email does seem to imply that it has something to do with recent allegations of racism leveled at the station in general and Eby in particular by some of the journalists in its newsroom.

"As you are aware, the external investigation of the diversity, equity and inclusion practices at the station in response to your concerns remains underway and I continue to encourage your participation in this process," the email reads.

As previously reported by the RFT, those allegations were made public in August through a pair of posts published on Medium — one authored by the station's afternoon newscaster, Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, and one with a group byline listed as "STLPR Reporters & Producers of Color."

Those posts allege a culture of systemic racism at STLPR, with Eby mentioned specifically.

Both posts mention a formal letter that was signed by more than two dozen employees and submitted to Eby on July 1, calling for the ouster of then-director of radio programming and operations Robert B. Peterson III, and accusing Peterson of discrimination. The hope, according to Lewis-Thompson's post, was that Eby would hold Peterson accountable.

"That did not happen," Lewis-Thompson wrote. "Instead, Tim announced Robert’s retirement on July 21. Instead of acknowledging the harm, Tim noted in an email 'Robert’s unwavering enthusiasm for St. Louis Public Radio and the people in this organization.' A retirement celebration for Robert was canceled only after repeated complaints from staff."

Additionally, Lewis-Thompson noted multiple instances of racism she experienced personally at the station while Eby was present, but silent.

In one case, in November 2018, Eby introduced Lewis-Thompson, who is Black, to one of the station's donors, a white woman, who commented, “I’m so happy they hired someone who looks like you.” According to Lewis-Thompson, Eby apologized for not speaking up about the comment — months later, and only after other employees of color confronted station management about problematic donors and sources.

Then, in August 2019, Lewis-Thompson says she was in the station's lobby when Eby, who was standing with an elderly Black man and a white man, called her out by name.

"He introduced me. We talked for a bit," she wrote. "Then the Black man said I wasn’t what he pictured. I asked what he meant. He said, 'You don’t sound, you know, ethnic.'

"I was stunned," she continued. "Once again, I waited for Tim’s reaction. I was hoping he would say something to the man right then and there. When that didn’t happen, I thought Tim would at least acknowledge what happened as we rode the elevator together immediately afterward. He didn’t. Only after I had posted on Facebook about the comment did he apologize — an hour later."

When asked by RFT for a comment on the allegations in July, Eby had this to say:

"Just as St. Louis Public Radio has reported on issues of racial inequality in our society, we too have a responsibility to carefully examine and address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion within our own organization. We are not unlike other newsrooms across the country who are re-examining the experiences of people of color in our ranks and we are dedicated to learning more and finding improvements in our processes as well as our practices to support a welcoming and inclusive environment."

We reached out Eby again today and will update this post if we hear back.

After news of Eby's ouster was made public, the twitter account attributed to St. Louis Public Radio Journalists of Color offered its thanks to those who stood with them.

"Everyone who spoke out and stood with us is part of our ongoing effort to achieve equity and fight racism at St. Louis Public Radio," they wrote. "Thank you."

Lewis-Thompson's twitter feed struck a similarly celebratory tone — but with fewer words.

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