AU President Benjamin Ladner removed WAMU executive director Susan Clampitt Thursday after a week of discussions with disgruntled staff. WAMU is an NPR-affiliate radio station owned and operated by AU, and over the last three years under Clampitt's aegis the station has lost about $4 million in case reserves. Several staff members, including popular talk-show host Diane Rehm, have voiced their discontent over Clampitt's managerial policies. Overall Ladner's decision was a good one, as WAMU has lost donors, money and morale over the past three years.
However, action should have been taken sooner, and AU should not have waited for a few Washington Post articles detailing WAMU's troubles to act. Although we're glad AU righted its ship, we wonder why nothing was done the last few years as deficits mounted. The slow economy is not the reason for WAMU's mismanagement, and AU should not have been so easily persuaded by Clampitt's reassurances. If the Post hadn't reported on this issue, it may have taken a long time for AU to make a meaningful change.
Although listenership did improve under Clampitt, her accomplishments were overshadowed by the large budget deficit and abrasive leadership she exhibited. Ladner's Chief of Staff David Taylor has been named the interim manager of WAMU, a decision that received a round of applause from WAMU staff. He will still retain his post in the president's office, and hopefully he will find time to breathe some much-needed air into WAMU's sails. AU is lucky to have an NPR affiliate under its direction, and should not be lax in considering the financial and personnel conditions of the station. Here's hoping the next three years will be more profitable and staff-friendly than the last three.