Perhaps worse still, Ms Cooper noticed early on that she had never heard of Brian Lehrer, the beloved WNYC morning host whose gentle, public-spirited talks epitomize the station’s appeal. , and that she didn’t “understand” why he was popular. Since then, she has felt that “Brian is the soul of the resort and, in many ways, the city itself,” WNYC spokeswoman Jennifer Houlihan Roussel said in an email.
In fact, Ms. Cooper’s mission was to reignite the station’s lagging digital transformation, which she had done with unusual success in San Francisco and which requires a willingness to make enemies. She has ambitious plans to hire 15-20 more journalists – but first she had the almost impossible task of assembling a group of traditional radio journalists, used to working for days and sometimes weeks on local topics. colorful, with reporters from Gothamist, the rambling local blog that WNYC bailed out in 2018. Ms Cooper sought to professionalize Gothamist away from its blogging and irreverent roots, telling reporters to be less openly hostile to the New York Police Department in their reports, said two journalists. Ms Roussel hinted Ms Cooper was trying to contain Gothamist’s habit of adding “an element of editorialization to its coverage that can be interpreted as bias.”
And Ms. Cooper began to push radio reporters to step up and submit articles for the Web. It seemed like a reasonable request, but it led to another stumble in early February, when an 18-year-old veteran on the radio side, Fred Mogul, filed a story with a paragraph printed in a different font. The publisher realized that this was an Associated Press copy; Ms Cooper quickly fired Mr Mogul (who through his union refused to be questioned) for plagiarism without checking to see if he had done so before.
Ms. Cooper refused to tell me about Mr. Mogul’s termination. But one thing I learned this week about public radio is that no matter what happens, someone is always recording it. And that was true when Ms Cooper called a virtual meeting on February 5 on Zoom to brief the entire newsroom about her decision to fire Mr Mogul. According to a copy of the recording provided to me by a participant, Ms. Cooper told staff members, “It’s only okay to be sad.” But then several stunned radio reporters questioned the decision, explaining that they regularly incorporated copies of AP into on-air reporting and imported the practice to the little-read WNYC website, crediting the AP at the bottom of the article.
“Go through each of our articles and send us all back, because that’s exactly what we’ve all done, ”host Rebeca Ibarra told him.
On February 10, more than 60 employees – including Mr. Lehrer – signed a letter asking Ms. Cooper to reconsider and calling the layoff a “disturbing precedent.”