Statement on Marianne Combs

Sep 14, 2020

For more than 53 years, Minnesota Public Radio has been guided by our public service mission to inform and inspire the people we serve. Fulfilling this mission requires an unwavering commitment to build trust – with our own employees and with diverse audiences and communities.

We were shocked by Marianne Combs’ decision to resign her position at MPR News.  That said, I fully support the editors who reviewed her story.  The MPR News editors decided that the story, which deals with complex and sensitive issues, is not ready to run because it does not meet our journalistic standards.  In fact, they were blindsided by Marianne’s resignation and expected that she was continuing to work on the story.  Editors had discussed with her how to strengthen the story so it might meet our standards.  That’s common practice in this business. Investigative stories take time for good reason and the editors who were shepherding this story were doing so in a responsible way that met our journalism and ethics standards.

The sources in the story do not allege that the subject of the story assaulted them or did anything illegal. None of the sources in the story were willing to be identified. The reporting could not confirm that any of the women had reported their allegations or incidents to authorities. No complaints regarding any action by him have been brought forward to MPR’s HR staff. No MPR employee has made any accusations against him on their own behalf, nor on behalf of other employees. And when we hired him, his background check came back clear.

The MPR News editors use discipline in applying our high standards for journalism.  The MPR newsroom seeks independent legal counsel on First Amendment and other matters related to our reporting.  Our editors, not attorneys, decide when a story is ready to run.  Neither I nor any other members of senior leadership at Minnesota Public Radio or American Public Media Group were involved in shaping or reviewing the story.  Doing so would have been inappropriate. In fact, there’s a firewall between the newsroom and senior leaders of the company.

The integrity of our journalism is a bedrock principle for us.  Facts matter, to us and to our audiences, and we work hard to earn the trust of every listener by honoring the highest standards of professional journalism in every story.  I trust MPR News editors to apply those standards for every story we report, and I stand by their decisions on this story.

Duchesne Drew               
President MPR