This message was sent to BBG Watch by an Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist who wants to remain anonymous. Writing under the pen name of Jan Palach, the journalist asserts that RFE/RL employees work in the environment of fear. RFE/RL President Steven Korn replaced professional journalists in senior management positions with non-journalists. He referred to some of those who were pushed out as “old white guys.”

You should learn to treat your staff as professionals

by Jan Palach (pen name of an anonymous RFE/RL journalist)

In reading the posts about the exploits of the BBG Management Staff, we here at RFE/RL can sympathize with our brethren. Our senior staff also have a tin ear when dealing with the rank and file. The latest glaring example is President Korn’s most recent ALLSTAFF email in which he has requisitioned a survey for the staff to fill out about how the RFE/RL can improve its internal communications processes. What is most amusing is this comes less than twenty-four hours after an email from him telling us why he had been out of the office the previous six weeks on vacation in the U.S., showing up in D.C. for a day or two here and there to participate in BBG meetings. Does our President really think that being out of touch for such a long period of time with no contact with rank-and-file staff is conducive to internal communication?

More confusing to the staff at large is the line in his memo where he points out all he has done to make himself accessible to us. He cites town hall meetings where he is appears combative, and coffee meetings where he is surrounded by sycophants trying to curry his favour.

Poor President Korn does not seem to understand how he is perceived by the majority of RFE/RL employees. Therefore, let me state it here in the hopes that he will read this post, we are afraid of you, and afraid for our jobs, thus you will never get an honest answer to any survey that can be traced back to us. You might as well cancel that survey now.

President Korn, if you truly want to improve communication at RFE/RL, you first need to understand that sporadic edicts and pronouncements are not effective. Instead, we would like for you to outline your vision for the future of RFE/RL and then work with us to find the best path from today to that vision. What we see now are random announcements mostly related to improving facilities in some of our bureaus, but nothing about how we can improve our broadcasts or increase the number of our listeners.

Also, you should learn to treat your staff as professionals. Killing the messenger is not an effective management tactic. You should be willing to have a dialogue about your decisions without raising your voice or calling people onto the carpet. There is over a millennium of collective broadcast expertise in the building, and if you listen to it with an open mind, you might find the advice we give is useful.

Of course, I do not expect any changes in President Korn’s demeanor. He, like Dick Lobo, Bruce Sherman, Jeff Trimble, etc. — senior managers at the RFE/RL’s parent U.S. government agency: the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) — will view this post as the complaints of one lone individual rather than a reflection of how over 90% of RFE/RL employees feel about the current management team.


BBG Watch had reported earlier that in one of his memos to the members of the bipartisan BBG Board, Mr. Korn assured them that his arrival on the scene and his personnel changes at Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty have greatly improved employee morale.