Thursday, May 13, 2021

Cerise Castle: Public Radio Commentator Blasts Racist ‘Whitecentric’ Mindset in Public Radio

Cerise Castle
Cerise Castle

*Former KCRW programmer Cerise Castle is simply the latest Black public radio programmer to experience the ingrained “whitecentric” mindset in much of public radio.

NPR, MPR, KPPC, and KUSC (not one Black programmer EVER), (and yes Pacifica Radio) is riddled with subtle and not so subtle racist “microagressions” or put less delicately blatant racist acts, attitudes and actions from top to bottom against African-American programmers.

“I’ve worked in and done programming in public radio–Pacifica, NPR, MPR, and other public radio outlets for decades and first hand I have seen, experienced, and been a victim, even target, of countless racially skewed attitudes and acts,” says Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari and Hutchinson Report publisher,” This racial ‘whitecentric’ mindset is carried out under the cover of public radio somehow being more liberal and racially forward thinking than mainstream commercial media. This is a blatant self-serving myth. ”

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KCRW (kcrw radio)Read the LA Times Article: Uproar at KCRW as former producer accuses public radio giant of ‘blatant racism’:

The Santa Monica-based public radio station KRCW-FM (89.9) is under fire this week after a former news producer alleged that she experienced a pattern of racist behavior while working there.

Cerise Castle said in a podcast interview and on social media on Monday that her time at KCRW was “marked by microaggressions, gaslighting, and blatant racism starting when I was physically prevented from entering the building multiple times within my first month of employment.”

She originally outlined her experiences in a farewell letter to staff last year after accepting a buyout, along with two dozen other station employees. On both the podcast, called LA Podcast, and Twitter, Castle, who worked at KCRW for a little more than a year and before that was a producer for Vice, decried the station’s lack of racial representation and accused management of appropriating her ideas.

“I’ve had employees tell me that my hair was ‘militaristic’ and that I remind them of a ‘gangsta,’” she wrote in the letter. “I have been screamed at in front of my intern and direct manager and nothing was done. When voicing my thoughts on segments and programming, I’ve been told that I am ‘loud’ and ‘angry.’ I’ve witnessed other staff say that ‘structural racism isn’t real’ and defend their qualifications for speaking on POC communities with their dating history.”

Cerise Castle - Twitter - 400x400
Cerise Castle – Twitter

Last week, Castle alleged on Twitter that the station had claimed credit for an idea she had while she was employed there, for a newly announced content initiative called #MyBlackLA. In response to a tweet promoting the project by KCRW’s head of digital content, Drew Tewksbury, she said, “To me, this is a prime example of a media outlet using ideas originally pitched by Black employees after a mass exodus of Black workers.”

Castle also noted that one of the two staffers that Tewksbury had tagged in the tweet had “no idea why he was thanked for this. He did not work on the project.” Tewksbury resigned his position on Monday. (Tewksbury, who declined to comment, served as interim books editor at The Times in 2019.)

Now a freelance reporter, Castle, 27, stressed the lack of diversity among the ranks at KCRW. “They’ve got Black ideas, and they’re making them without any Black people,” she said on LA Podcast.

On Wednesday, Jerome Campbell, a Black producer at KCRW who also took the 2020 buyout, backed Castle’s assertions in a Twitter thread. “I wanna start out by saying believe @cerisecastle. Without hesitation,” he wrote before describing specific frustrating experiences he had at the station.

Campbell identified one moment in particular, when a white producer doubted the veracity of a Black source’s account, as “the reminder of many conversations throughout my career with superiors or more senior staff members in the workplace who have leveraged my racial identity for the benefit of the institution at the expense of my voice.”

In a statement Tuesday, KCRW disputed some of Castle’s assertions and noted that it was not approached for comment by LA Podcast before it released the episode on Monday. The station added that, in the wake of allegations outlined in Castle’s farewell letter, last year it “took steps to address them and conducted a 4-month investigation” with an external law firm.

“Ultimately,” the statement continued, “several of the claims were found to be unsubstantiated or not corroborated. But we take all claims very seriously.”

Castle declined to comment for this article.

In a follow-up email to employees on Tuesday, KCRW President Jennifer Ferro acknowledged Castle’s accusations and said that “[t]hose comments and others caused us all to examine our assumptions, our work, our prejudices and the reality that was exposed.” She added, “I believe we neglected to communicate compassion to Cerise and others who had unhappy and unwelcoming experiences at KCRW which caused them to leave. For that, on behalf of KCRW, I am incredibly sorry.”

Ferro declined to comment further for this article.

One of two National Public Radio affiliates in the Los Angeles market competing for an often-overlapping audience, KCRW, owned by Santa Monica College, has long been a tastemaker both in L.A. and in public radio circles. Its best-known music show, “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” has helped break artists including Adele, Coldplay and Beck.

Unlike most NPR affiliates, KCRW mixes music and talk, with free-form music programming that the station has long billed as “handpicked.” Last year, its DJs joined with other content creators in KCRW’s newsroom to successfully unionize as WeMakeKCRW.

Management’s response to Castle’s charges wasn’t well received by WeMakeKCRW. “That statement does not speak for us at WeMakeKCRW, the station’s content staff represented by SAG-AFTRA. We find KCRW leadership’s response to be totally inappropriate and a shirking of responsibilities. We demand better from our leadership and ourselves as an organization.”



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