Perhaps worse, Ms. Cooper noted early on that she had never heard of Brian Lehrer, the beloved WNYC morning presenter, whose gentle scrutiny, nonprofit interviews embodied the station’s appeal, and that she hadn’t “understood” why he did it was popular. Since then, she has come to the conclusion that “Brian is the soul of the broadcaster and, in many ways, the city itself,” a WNYC spokeswoman Jennifer Houlihan Roussel said in an email.
In fact, Ms. Cooper’s mission was to drive the broadcaster’s sluggish digital transformation, which she had done in San Francisco with unusual success and which requires a willingness to make enemies. She has ambitious plans to hire 15 to 20 more reporters – but first she faced the almost impossible task of bringing together a group of traditional radio journalists who were used to working on colorful local features for days and occasionally weeks with Gothamist reporters. Ms. Cooper tried to professionalize Gothamist from its blogging and disrespectful roots and urged reporters to be less open in their reporting against the New York Police Department, two reporters said. Ms. Roussel suggested that Ms. Cooper tried to curb Gothamist’s tendency to “include an element of editorial staff in its reporting that can be interpreted as bias”.
And Ms. Cooper began pushing radio journalists to step up their pace and submit stories for the internet. That seemed like a reasonable request, but it resulted in another stumble in early February when an 18-year-old radio site veteran Fred Mogul submitted a story with a paragraph in a different font. The editor realized it was a copy from the Associated Press. Ms. Cooper immediately fired Mr. Mogul (who refused to be interviewed through his union) for plagiarism without checking if he had ever done it before.
Ms. Cooper declined to speak to me about Mr. Mogul’s resignation. But one thing I learned about public radio this week is that no matter what, someone always records it. And that was true when Ms. Cooper called a virtual meeting through Zoom on February 5 to inform the entire newsroom of her decision to fire Mr. Mogul. According to a copy of the tape provided to me by a participant, Ms. Cooper said to staff, “It’s perfectly fine to be sad.” But then several stunned radio reporters questioned the move and stated that they were regularly incorporated AP copies into aired stories and imported the practice onto WNYC’s little-read website, crediting The AP at the end of the story.
“Walk through every single one of our articles and cheer us all, because that’s exactly what we’ve all done, ”said one hostess, Rebecca Ibarra.
On February 10, more than 60 employees, including Mr.Teacher, signed a letter asking Ms. Cooper to reconsider the layoff and describe the layoff as a “worrying precedent.”