Education

Miami-Dade school district seeks advice of journalism luminaries on WLRN dispute

WLRN Radio’s news studio in the former Miami Herald headquarters, seen in 2007. WLRN and the Miami Herald have shared a partnership for years.
WLRN Radio’s news studio in the former Miami Herald headquarters, seen in 2007. WLRN and the Miami Herald have shared a partnership for years.

Following widespread criticism of the Miami-Dade school district’s push for more control of WLRN, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is seeking the advice of professionals to help guide negotiations on the future of the award-winning public radio and TV station.

On Friday, the school district announced that a group of journalism luminaries and good governance advocates would meet as early as next week to discuss how to ensure WLRN’s continued independence in light of a dispute between the station’s fund-raising arm and the school board, which owns the station’s operating license.

The small circle will include former Miami Herald publisher Alberto Ibargüen, who is now president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; David Lawrence Jr., a former Herald publisher and advocate for early childhood education; former Herald editorial page editor and journalist Joe Oglesby; and former Miami-Dade county commissioner Katy Sorenson, who founded the Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami.

“Individuals who understand both sides, who are both business operators who understand media and understand the required independence that’s expected of journalism and journalists and will help me negotiate through this complex issue,” Carvalho told the Miami Herald’s editorial board on Thursday.

The goal, Carvalho said, is to find a solution that protects WLRN’s independence while resolving the school district’s concerns over the station’s finances.

The conflict centers on a proposed operating agreement that would force 19 journalists currently employed by an independent nonprofit to reapply for their jobs through the school board, which critics say would jeopardize WLRN’s independence. The school district maintains that it will not interfere in editorial decisions and is only interested in greater oversight of Friends of WLRN, an affiliated fund-raising operation.

The proposal has been widely condemned by WLRN listeners.

All four advisers confirmed their participation Friday, though none commented on the disagreement between the district and its non-profit partner. Ibargüen, who was publisher at the Miami Herald when WLRN’s reporting staff was first created, said it’s important that they find a solution.

“My interest here is in ensuring the editorial integrity of the station,” he said. “If we can craft something that helps, I’ll be very pleased.”

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