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Report Substantiates Sexual Harassment Complaints Against KJZZ Leader
LAUREN GILGER: We start this hour with some news that involves our own organization. In early May, two KJZZ executives were placed on administrative leave by Rio Salado College pending separate investigations — general manager and vice president of Rio Salado College, Jim Paluzzi, and associate general manager for news, Mark Moran. Now a full report into allegations of sexual harassment by Paluzzi has been made public by the Maricopa County Community College District, which holds KJZZ's license.
MARK BRODIE: It's obviously always difficult when a news organization becomes the news. So in order to provide unbiased coverage of this issue we contracted with an independent journalist out of Los Angeles. KJZZ wanted an independent voice and a strong level of editorial independence. It's part of our commitment to sound journalistic practices. That separation also includes an editor from the NPR News Desk in Washington, D.C.
GILGER: The journalist covering this story is Jeff Tyler, and he is here now with an update on the final report that was released early this morning. Jeff, welcome to The Show.
JEFF TYLER: Hey. It's great to be with you.
GILGER: So, first tell us about the findings in this report.
TYLER: Right, so the investigation found that there was a pattern of sexual harassment by Jim Paluzzi making unwanted sexual advances toward young men in the newsroom. These guys were very uncomfortable with this, and they didn't know how to respond. And it made them fearful for how they should go about bringing this to the attention of supervisors.
GILGER: Right, right. It seems the issue of retaliation came up, and these employees seemed concerned about speaking to the investigator in this situation?
TYLER: That's correct, yes.
BRODIE: So, what are the consequences to all this?
TYLER: So Jim Paluzzi has retired, and I spoke with the spokesperson for the Maricopa County Community College District. And I asked him if Paluzzi was getting off easy.
“This is a very serious matter. These are very serious allegations. They're not criminal allegations. However, our employees deserve the right to come to work, be safe, be treated with respect and be in an environment free of this kind of behavior. And he's not here anymore.”
BRODIE: So Jeff, Paluzzi also filed a more than 20-page response to the report, to the allegations. What does he have to say about it?
TYLER: Well, he denies all of the accusations. He went through them individually and rebutted everything in the reports. As you say, it goes on for more than 20 pages. He says that the college treated others in a similar situation, who were accused of similar offenses, more favorably, and he believes that he was treated unfairly.
BRODIE: Is there anything else that stood out from the report?
TYLER: Yeah, there were a couple of things that jumped out, including the very first line. I'm just going to read it for you. This is the first line of the investigation. It says, "current and past employees expressed an extreme level of fear of retaliation or retribution by Paluzzi for participating in this investigation." It goes on a little bit later to say one NPR employee who works with member stations in the region said the fear of retaliation at KJZZ is greater than at any other station he works with and greater than he has seen in his entire career. Now this is something that has gone on in other newsrooms as well. And I reached out to Bruce Shapiro, who is the executive director at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which is a project of the Columbia Journalism School. And I spoke with him a little bit about what this means to the people inside the newsroom. He said that sexual harassment destroys bonds of trust within a news organization and makes it much more difficult for the work of journalism to get done, and for producers and reporters to trust one another.
GILGER: So what's next, Jeff? This is not over at this point, right?
TYLER: No, there is another report that the district is working on that's district wide. [It] looks at how sexual harassment accusations are handled, how they were handled in this situation and what are the best practices going forward.
GILGER: All right. Jeff Tyler is an independent journalist based in Los Angeles who has been hired by KJZZ to report on these investigations. The full report on this investigation is now posted on our website. You can see that at kjzz.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Associate General Manager Mark Moran is still under investigation. He remains on leave pending the completion of that separate investigation.
Jeff Tyler is an independent journalist, based in Los Angeles, who has been hired by KJZZ to report on these investigations.