Why are ‘old white guys’ leaving RFE/RL?

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) top lawyer is the latest experienced executive to announce he is leaving the privately-run but U.S. government-funded international broadcaster. John Lindburg, RFE/RL’s General Counsel and Secretary, informed the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal agency that manages RFE/RL, that he intends to retire on July 23, 2012.

In an email to the BBG, Lindburg wrote that he has mixed emotions about his decision to retire, noting that he felt “privileged to work with and represent outstanding journalists who often risk their lives to speak truth to power.” “Their idealism and courage are inspirational, and their efforts make real positive and meaningful differences in the lives of millions of persons,” Lindburg wrote.

Lindburg copied his email to RFE/RL President Steven Korn, a former CNN executive whose current tenure has seen the departure of many experienced journalists and other U.S. international broadcasting professionals. Steven Korn was quoted referring to some of them as “old white guys.” There are currently no journalists with international reporting experience among senior managers at RFE/RL.

We don’t know if factors other than personal were behind John Lindburg’s decision to retire, but the large number of experienced professionals who have left RFE/RL during the past year is disturbing and we would like to ask what is causing such a significant change.

John Lindburg joined the now defunct U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1973. He later worked at the Board for International Broadcasting (BIB) and the BBG.

In his email to the BBG, Lindburg wrote: “There are very few causes as worthy and cost-effective as that of U.S. international broadcasting. I truly hope that such activities will continue for many years to come. Many people abroad will depend on it.”

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