This week’s been a tough one in the @MPRNews newsroom: Monday morning, our colleague Marianne Combs announced her resignation.
It was a gut punch. I've long appreciated Marianne's dedication to her work, her craft and -- most importantly -- her community. She's been a mentor to young reporters. She makes room at the table. She does the hard work of hosting the kinds of conversations the community needs.
And she's taken on some of the toughest stories of accusations and accountability within the arts community. For that work, the Minnesota chapter of SPJ named her Journalist of the Year. mpr.org/stories/2020/0…
So when allegations against an MPR employee in another department were posted on social media earlier this year, Marianne was the reporter our newsroom asked to investigate.
It's sensitive, challenging work, rooted in the deepest trust between the reporter and the people they're reporting on -- and between the reporter and the editors who have their back.
That work was in progress when Marianne announced her resignation. And because of that, it would be irresponsible of me to say much about the specifics of that reporting. We weren’t yet prepared to publish, and airing details on social media would be the equivalent of doing so.
I was among the editors who worked with Marianne at various stages of that reporting. And I'm disappointed that I now have to write that in the past tense.
There have been a lot of assumptions swirling around on social media this week -- and as an editor, that’s frustrating. I realize that Twitter’s not a great place for nuance. But: I’ll try.
First, it’s incredibly important to say this: The @MPRNews newsroom has never flinched in holding accountable some of the largest institutions in Minnesota -- including our own. Just a few examples:
mprnews.org/betrayed
mprnews.org/story/2018/01/…
mprnews.org/story/2019/10/…
And when we take on stories like that, we proceed deliberately, thoughtfully -- with the integrity of the reporting at the center.
That means taking great care with the people who entrust their stories to us, and taking great care with the way we tell those stories. As Marianne said so well: Their trauma is real, and their stories matter.
It is an incredibly brave act to come forward. We owe it to them -- and to our community -- to tell the strongest story possible.
Our reporting is built on that trust. The reporters, producers, photographers, editors, hosts and newscasters in our newsroom work daily to maintain it.
We follow a strict code of newsroom ethics mprnews.org/ethics, @spj_tweets’s code of ethics spj.org/ethicscode.asp and that of @NPR, as well. npr.org/ethics
My colleagues at @MPRnews are deeply committed to our region. They understand that earning the trust of the public happens on a daily basis -- on every story that we cover, every decision that we make. Their dedication humbles me on a daily basis.
And while it's often invisible in the final story people hear on the air or read online, we follow a rigorous process: pitching, vetting, drafting, refining, editing, more reporting, rewriting, fact-checking and sometimes legal review -- many of these steps multiple times over.
It’s not a linear process. We absolutely must get it right. The stakes are incredibly high. It takes humility, empathy and rigor. And sometimes, on the most complicated stories, it takes what can feel like a frustratingly long time.
This story had been working its way through that process with an immense amount of care. I was so grateful throughout that the team working on it was willing to have the tough conversations that this sort of reporting demands. It makes our work better, stronger.
Never once did I see editors making decisions from a place of fear. Instead, I saw a robust editorial process that strengthened the work, asked difficult questions, offered time, resources and support.
It’s an editor’s role to work at that intersection, on behalf of our reporters and on behalf of our readers, listeners and community -- with a gratitude and respect for the people who trust us to take care with their stories.
When it comes to reporting on ourselves or APMG, the newsroom works outside the purview of our parent company. It is critical that we maintain the firewall between our newsroom and the rest of the company, and preserve our ability to independently report the news.
That means we treat our company (APMG and all of its organizations, including @ClassicalMPR, @TheCurrent and @MPR) as we would any other.
mprnews.org/story/2018/01/…
We don't talk about that reporting in company channels while it's ongoing; we don't involve people outside the newsroom in any news decisions. And we’re not involved in decisions regarding other parts of the company, either.
To be clear: The @MPRnews newsroom operates independently of @MPR management. That is what allows us to serve our audience, our community. And nobody from management interfered in this reporting.
Now that @MPRNews has become part of the story this week, @MPR’s president, @dpdrew -- who has not been involved in the reporting or news decisions around it -- has had to take on the awkward role of speaking for both the reporters and the reported-on. mprnews.org/story/2020/09/…
I already miss working with @MarianneSCombs. And I’m so grateful to work in a place where it’s still possible to take on complicated stories with care and conviction.
I would walk through burning coals for the reporters I work with -- and I’m not alone in that. This newsroom is full of remarkable journalists doing difficult work in a damn near impossible moment, on behalf of the community they care so deeply about.
I hope this moment is also an opportunity for us to continue our work on behalf of our community, our listeners and our readers -- to answer questions, explain our processes and offer a bit more clarity from behind the scenes.

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