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St. Louis Public Radio chief, ousted after racism complaints, is staying on as a consultant

St. Louis Public Radio chief, ousted after racism complaints, is staying on as a consultant

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ST. LOUIS — Tim Eby, who was removed as general manager of St. Louis Public Radio on Thursday after complaints by staff members that he failed to act against racism at the station, is staying on for six months as a consultant, the station reports.

Some journalists at the FM station, also known as KWMU, reacted with disgust on Saturday, asking why the station was continuing to pay an ousted manager when other staffers recently took pay cuts or were laid off.

And they expressed concern that Eby’s continued relationship with the station had not been disclosed in an email to staff members Thursday from an UMSL vice chancellor announcing that public radio consultant Tom Livingston had been appointed as the station’s interim chief.

Eby’s consulting contract was first reported Friday night by Brian Munoz, a freelance reporter hired by St. Louis Public Radio to cover Eby’s departure and allegations of systemic racism at the station.

Munoz’s report was based on a Friday afternoon statement from UMSL spokesman Bob Samples announcing that Eby would continue to work in a six-month consultancy role at the station in order to provide continuity and transition on pending matters, projects and operations.

A Post-Dispatch reporter on Saturday could not reach Livingston, Eby or Samples. Madalyn Painter, the station’s marketing and digital media director, said in a text that Samples was handling inquiries about the matter. Munoz provided a copy of Samples’ statement to the Post-Dispatch upon request.

The statement did not disclose how much Eby, 60, would be paid. The Post-Dispatch asked the University of Missouri system for a copy of Eby’s termination and consulting agreements.

In the statement, UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik thanked Eby “for his tenure at St. Louis Public Radio during which the station experienced a tremendous period of growth.” She said it was time to “look forward” and align the station’s work with the community’s needs and the university’s “academic, research, service and outreach mission.”

Some St. Louis Public Radio journalists said on Twitter on Saturday that Munoz’s tweet Friday night was the first time they were told about Eby’s extended role.

Political reporter Rachel Lippmann tweeted her dissatisfaction Saturday.

Lippmann said her optimism that “we had a space to make some real change” was “vanishing quickly.”

“In this case, racism isn’t being rewarded with cupcakes,” she tweeted. “It’s being rewarded with a contract of an indeterminate amount of money, and we have no idea whether that’s coming from” the station’s budget or the University of Missouri system.

Political reporter Jason Rosenbaum asked in a tweet: “Was this arrangement offered to folks who were laid off earlier this year?” and “Why is this happening when we all took pay cuts and there’s a hiring freeze?”

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, the station’s afternoon newscaster, tweeted: “HOW is it that Tim is no longer fit to be our GM, but is somehow capable of being our consultant for six whole months???” Lewis-Thompson, who is Black, also tweeted: “That’s how systemic racism works.”

Complaints about Eby came to light in early August when journalists and producers of color complained about unfair treatment.

In an Aug. 7 post on medium.com, the group said Eby “has the power to make necessary changes to policies and practices. He could make it a priority to transform the station into a diverse, inclusive and equitable place to work. But instead, he chose to uphold white supremacy at the station by remaining complacent with the status quo.”

In a separate piece, Lewis-Thompson also wrote that day she had seen Eby “humiliate people during staff meetings, diminish their value and contributions to the station” and that he has “continuously swept systemic racism at the station under the rug.”

Lewis-Thompson recalled that Eby had been giving a newsroom tour to a white donor when the donor told Lewis-Thompson she was happy the station had hired someone who looked like her. Lewis-Thompson said the remark caused her embarrassment, but that Eby turned away and did not address it.

In a response posted to the station’s website on Aug. 10, Eby said he was “sorry that I did not recognize the depth of the problems earlier and that staff have been hurt. I take responsibility for creating a culture where they feel valued.”

Shortly thereafter, a UMSL vice chancellor, Tanisha Stevens, began heading a probe into diversity, equity and inclusion practices at the station. The journalist group last week said in an online post it had “no confidence” in the UMSL investigation.

Note: A previous version of this story said UMSL did not send a news release about Eby’s contract to a Post-Dispatch reporter covering the story. But an UMSL spokesman said Saturday he had emailed it to some newsroom editors. It appeared that the email may have been caught in a spam filter.

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