A group of 24 public radio stations sent a letter on Monday to The Times audio department with concerns about “lapses in judgment” in its response last month when the paper announced that the podcast “did not meet our standards for accuracy.” These stations broadcast “The Daily,” The Times’ flagship daily news podcast. The letter, obtained by CNN Business, was earlier tweeted by Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
The letter also said The Times’ decision to have Barbaro interview Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet was “flawed,” in part because of Barbaro’s personal relationship with Lisa Tobin, the executive producer of “Caliphate.” The two are engaged.
Abby Goldstein, president and executive director of the Public Radio Program Directors Association, told CNN Business on Tuesday that the letter was intended to communicate concerns and not “draw a line in the sand” with specific demands.
“When we put programming on the air for our audiences, we’re endorsing that programming. We’re telling our audiences we believe in the journalistic rigor of these programs, and we’re making them available to you through our biggest megaphone,” Goldstein said. The letter is “really about taking responsibility for the behavior of the staff.”
The Times responded on Tuesday to each of the concerns in a letter signed by Sam Dolnick, an assistant managing editor at the paper.
“We believe we’ve handled what was a significant journalistic lapse with accountability. We are deeply committed to continuing to pursue ambitious audio journalism and have already begun implementing changes that will make our audio report even stronger,” Dolnick wrote.
Dolnick wrote that The Times did not believe Barbaro had to disclose his relationship with Tobin since the conversation was seen as an “audio version” of an editor’s note whereas an “accountability interview” was given to NPR. He also said Barbaro “deeply regrets” the private messages he sent journalists and that “editors have discussed their expectations with him going forward.”
Regarding Mills, Dolnick wrote that The Times is taking the allegations of misconduct “very seriously.” As to why Mills hosted the recent episode of “The Daily,” Dolnick said the episode had been previously scheduled but that the company “should have changed plans.”
The Times did not comment beyond the letter. Barbaro and Mills did not respond to requests for comment.