Iowa Public Radio board chair concerned about employee morale

Former news director abruptly dismissed in June

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The Iowa Public Radio Board of Directors has received complaints by a "significant" number of employees upset by the apparent dismissal of the network's news director in June, board chairman Arthur Neu said.

"They greatly respected Jonathan," Neu said of Jonathan Ahl, who had been news director since 2008. "They recognized some shortcomings, but they thought he was very innovative and, from their perspective, had been doing a very good job."

IPR CEO Mary Grace Herrington declined to comment last month on Ahl's sudden departure, but said "we are very pleased with everything Jonathan has done to build our news organization."

Ahl has also declined to comment.

Neu, a Carroll attorney who served as lieutenant governor and a state senator, said he is concerned about employee morale after speaking with a number of employees from the IPR news operation.

"We have an awfully good staff and we don't want to do anything to undermine the work those people do," Neu said.

The five-member board had a long discussion about Ahl's termination in a closed-session meeting last month, Neu said, and supports the decision. However, "the board will be watching things. This isn't the sort of thing you brush aside."

Ahl's departure came after IPR moved a group of newer employees from Iowa State University's benefits packages to an independent IPR package, Neu said.

"There was some unhappiness by some long-term employees when they found out their benefits would be somewhat less," he said.

The statewide radio network was created in 2005 by merging stations at Iowa’s three public universities. IPR cut nine positions in 2009 as part of a reorganization after state funding dropped 6 percent and funding from the universities declined 17 percent. In this fiscal year, the state cut IPR’s funding by 3.6 percent. The network has responded by increasing listener support and corporate sponsorships.

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