ST. PAUL — Tuesday evening, Minnesota Public Radio announced it had fired Eric Malmberg, the overnight DJ at MPR’s music station The Current, after public backlash from Current staffers and listeners.
A news alert on MPR’s home page opened with “Listeners and members have reached out to us, and we want to share the following,” a statement from MPR president Duchesne Drew that read: “MPR has made the decision that the audience of The Current is best served by a programmatic change. As a result, Eric Malmberg will no longer be a DJ on The Current. Our hosts have to be able to attract an audience that wants to listen to them and trusts them and over the last 36 hours those conditions have changed for Malmberg.”
Monday morning, longtime MPR News arts reporter Marianne Combs resigned from the station. In her resignation letter, which Combs shared on social media, she said she had spent the past two and half months gathering “testimony from eight women who say that (a DJ for MPR’s The Current) sexually manipulated and psychologically abused them” but that “my editors have failed to move forward on the story.” Combs wrote that the women’s experiences span 15 years and describe a man who “preyed on younger, sexually inexperienced women.”
Combs did not reveal the DJ’s name, which had been widely shared on social media but not publicly reported.
Tuesday afternoon, at least half of the Current’s staff tweeted their support for Combs.
“The Local Show” host Andrea Swensson was the first to post the tweet, which reads: “I believe the eight women who bravely confided in @MarianneSCombs. I trust Marianne’s judgment as an award-winning journalist, and I believe that what she said is true. I believe all survivors who make the terrifying and vulnerable decision to come forward.”
From there, at least a dozen staffers tweeted the same statement, including “The Current Morning Show” host Jill Riley, midday DJ Jade Tittle and other on-air talents Mac Wilson, Sean McPherson, Sanni Brown and Brittany Lind, a host for The Current in Duluth. DJs Jake Rudh and Shannon Blowtorch, who have specialty shows on the station, also tweeted, as did a handful of other behind-the-scenes Current staffers. Later in the day, listeners of the station and other non-employees began to tweet the same message.
“I’m incredibly moved,” Combs said in a direct message Tuesday afternoon. “For MPR employees to publicly show support for these women and my work is a courageous and risky move right now. It means the world to me.”
In June, Combs was named journalist of the year by the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on sexual abuse at Minneapolis’ Children’s Theatre Company.
MPR president Duchesne Drew responded to Combs’ allegations Monday with a lengthy and detailed statement. He said that the story was not canceled, but that he stood by the editors who “had discussed with her how to strengthen the story so it might meet our standards.” Drew went on to say none of the women were willing to be identified, none had reported their allegations to authorities, no complaints had been brought to MPR’s human resources department and that the unnamed DJ’s background check “came back clear.”
Tuesday morning, Drew maintained that stance during an on-air interview with MPR News’ Cathy Wurzer.
“There was nothing alleged that was illegal,” Drew told Wurzer. “I know that will upset some people. The reason I’m pausing on that for a moment is when we’re weighing the reasons if a story is going to be run or not, there are many, many considerations. As you would expect, whether the activity was illegal is a significant dimension of that.”