Your tax dollars at work: NPR tattlers

I worked at WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio from May 1978 to August 1989. The station was and still is an affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR).

I enjoyed my time working there, right up until the day my contract wasn’t renewed and I was told to leave. Given my political ideologies I couldn’t possibly work there today, and that’s more than ok.

Imagine what a screwed up workplace NPR truly has become, with workers unaware if a colleague may turn and snitch. A columnist who goes by the name “Cockburn” writes about Washington gossip for The Spectator. One of his latest entries:

NPR memo: rat out your unmasked colleagues so we can fire them

Cockburn missed the office during the pandemic. After months cooped up, he was eager to return to the hustle and bustle, the gossip, the happy hours, the flirting with married secretaries, the subsequent HR meetings and informal warnings.

Thank goodness, therefore, that Cockburn doesn’t work at NPR, the nationwide radio network headquartered right here in DC — as over there they seem much less keen for a return to normalcy.

Cast an eye over this memo sent out to NPR employees regarding their in-office mask mandate:

Station staff are reminded that: masking is still required, unless recording alone in a studio, working alone in an office with the door closed, or actively eating or drinking. (And “actively” does not mean occasionally drinking from a water bottle.)

The memo gets worse, when detailing the actions employees can take if they spot a coworker failing to comply with the rules:

If you notice someone has forgotten their mask, you might tell them, “Hey, you forgot your mask.” It’s actually helping the person to be reminded. Nobody is intentionally trying to evade the rules. And if you are reminded to wear your mask, say, “Thank you!”

When politeness fails, however, NPR workers’ next move should be to report their colleague to the Stasi:

Alternatively, let your supervisor or your HRBP know and they can remind that person. You can also share an anonymous concern via the EthicsPoint system… and HR will address your concern promptly.

Please note that failure to comply with our masking requirement may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. (Emphasis Cockburn’s.)

So NPR staffers could go to and from work on public transport, or in a cab or Uber, face exposed — but they would have to diaper up before passing through the hallowed threshold of the office.

And NPR is so concerned about the spread of droplets in its headquarters that it is prepared to dismiss staff whose lips go nude.

It’s worth noting that memo does not appear to specify which kinds of face masks are compliant with company policy — so a surgical N95 with the sides taped to your face (which would prevent you from transmitting airborne illnesses) may be viewed as equal to the totemic, flimsy cloth mask that you hand-stitched back in April 2020 (which would not).

Cockburn could go on for hours about how scientific or sane the NPR policy is. Instead, here’s a question: does a workplace where staff are encouraged to rat out their coworkers by company higher-ups for such a minor “transgression” sound like it has a “healthy” office culture?

One unintended consequence of Covid has been the “Great Resignation,” with thousands of workers leaving their roles to pursue a better alternative. It sounds like NPR’s employees would have a better reason than most to join the exodus.

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