Jim Asendio Exits WAMU/D.C. In Conflict Over Donor-Staff Event
February 23, 2012 at 3:45 AM (PT)
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY noncommercial News-Talk WAMU/WASHINGTON News Dir. JIM ASENDIO has exited the station. MEYMO LYONS has been named Acting News Dir. while the station searches for ASENDIO's successor.
The WASHINGTON POST's ERIK WEMPLE reports that ASENDIO's exit was prompted by a station event at which WAMU reporters met with donors, which ASENDIO told WEMPLE violated the "firewall" between news staff and donors and was more properly a task for managers. ASENDIO said that he decided not to attend the event, which led to a letter from GM CARYN MATHES saying his decision sent "an irreversible and permanent statement on whether I was a member of our team"; “So," he said, "seeing the handwriting on the wall and not wanting to get into any kind of job difficulty, I felt it best to stand on my journalistic ethics and resign.”
The station initially declined comment on ASENDIO's departure, but has now sent WEMPLE a statement through Communications Manager BENAE MOSBY saying that "WAMU maintains a firewall between journalists and funders; journalists may not — and do not — discuss coverage planning with grant-making officials or individual donors. It is senior management’s responsibility to manage contacts for their respective divisions with funders. Any one-on-one, private contact between a non-management journalist and a funder has high potential for putting that journalist in an awkward position and communicating the wrong message to the funder, and there is no situation where this should be allowed to occur.
"As we discussed earlier, this morning, the station hosted a Meet the Producers Breakfast as a 'thank-you' for approximately 30 people. The context was to give donor constituents an understanding of how the work is performed. Approximately nine of our reporters and producers spoke on a panel discussion moderated by PD MARK MCDONALD. They discussed how their work comes together, and entertained general questions from the audience, like 'How do journalists in the nation’s capital decide what is a local or a national story?'
"Allowing people to see the impact that their investment makes in our work is completely appropriate. However, the station does not permit crossing the line between a funder seeing that impact and a funder being allowed input into the planning process for coverage."