The top executive of the nonprofit that controls WBEZ, the Chicago Sun-Times and Vocalo announced his surprise resignation Monday from his post of three years, saying he intended to “return to my roots as a technology entrepreneur.”
The departure of Matt Moog, Chicago Public Media’s chief executive officer, came as unions representing WBEZ and the Sun-Times disclosed to their membership “hostile work environment” allegations against what leaders in one of the labor groups characterized as a “Chicago Public Media executive.”
Representatives for the Chicago News Guild and SAG-AFTRA did not divulge the exact details of the “serious and sensitive” allegations, identify how many accusers there were or disclose the identity of the media organization executive allegedly involved.
After Moog announced his departure, the unions sent notices to their members that they were no longer pursuing an outside investigation into the unnamed executive. They did not identify Moog as the accused or link his departure with the allegations against the unnamed executive. A spokeswoman for Chicago Public Media did not respond to a question about any association between the two developments that came only hours apart.
The spokeswoman declined to answer repeated questions about the unions’ inquiry or WBEZ’s request to interview Moog, who was paid $533,620 in salary and benefits in 2021, according to the organization’s most recent tax filing.
But the spokeswoman emphasized the news organization’s “positive” work environment.
“While Chicago Public Media doesn’t comment on personnel issues, we want to underscore that, as always, creating a positive workplace culture for our staff is core to our organizational values,” CPM spokeswoman Betsy Berger said in a statement late Monday.
Moog’s departure sent shockwaves across the entire nonprofit news organization, which he had a keen hand in shaping since overseeing the $61 million acquisition of the Sun-Times. The acquisition put two of the city’s best-known media nameplates and their respective resources under one roof to create the largest non-profit news organization in the country.
In a resignation letter Moog circulated to staff and shared on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, he said he plans to remain in his post until a new CEO is hired. Moog said the search will commence for a replacement in 2024.
Moog vowed to “ensure stability and continued momentum” of Chicago Public Media — parent organization of WBEZ, Vocalo and the Chicago Sun-Times — during his remaining time on the job and reiterated his commitment to improving local journalism in the region.
“I am passionate about the importance of local journalism and our role in fostering a healthy democracy and vibrant communities,” he wrote. “It is of utmost importance to me that upon my exit, CPM is as strong as ever and positioned for continued success and future growth.”
Moog had offered no public signals that he was contemplating a move away from the organization and Monday gave no other reasons for leaving his job beyond his stated desire to return to his earlier career in business.
“I plan to return to my roots as a technology entrepreneur. I feel a great sense of gratitude for the board, staff, and supporters who embraced the opportunity to combine two great news organizations in a bold effort to serve the greater Chicago community with independent local journalism,” Moog said in a statement.
Moog served for 14 years on the Chicago Public Media board and, subsequently, three years as CEO.
While Moog drew praise for marshaling Chicago’s philanthropic community for the purchase of the Sun-Times, Chicago Public Media has at times faced revenue challenges. The organization’s 2022 public tax filing, the latest one available, showed revenues were down by nearly $5 million in 2021 from 2020 as Chicago and Illinois continued to climb out from the effects of the pandemic.
Union investigation request
Within hours of Moog’s announcement that he was departing, unions for both the Sun-Times and WBEZ wrote their members an update on a request they had sent to the board.
The emails detailed that two weeks ago, leadership for both unions requested the Chicago Public Media board seek a third-party investigation of the allegations involving the unidentified executive. The unions set a Monday deadline for a response from the board and learned Monday the request had been rejected, according to the emails.
“This morning, union leaders met with the chairs of the CPM and Sun-Times boards for an off-the-record conversation about the matter,” Sun-Times union leadership sent in a letter to its members Monday. “The board chairs also sent us a letter outlining the steps the organization took in response to these allegations. They denied our request for a third-party investigation.
“While we still have questions about the initial handling of these complaints — and we will continue pushing for better organizational processes around such issues — we now feel comfortable that we do not need to take any further actions on this specific matter,” the union email said.
Leaders in both unions rejected a request from WBEZ to provide copies of the initial letter to the Chicago Public Media board demanding an investigation and any correspondence back from the board explaining its position. Union leadership late Monday said they did not provide the board with a specific name of the accused.
When asked for the correspondence between the board and union leadership, a Chicago Public Media spokesperson did not respond to that request.
Earlier Monday, Robert Pasin, chair of the Chicago Public Media Board, praised Moog’s tenure, saying he made a significant impact on the organization’s future.
“His impact spanned raising significant funds from major foundations and donors, developing a new strategic plan, and accelerating a digital transformation,” Pasin said in a prepared statement. “We are grateful for his vision and accomplishments through the years and look forward to seeing what innovative venture he pursues next.”
Adrienne King, chair of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Board of Directors, offered a similarly glowing review of Moog in a prepared statement.
“We are grateful for Matt’s vision and leadership as we combined these two great news organizations,” she said. “Thanks to the hard work of Matt and his team, we believe that Chicago Public Media, inclusive of the Sun-Times and WBEZ, is well-positioned to help Chicago realize its full potential as a city that is vibrant, inclusive, and equitable. We are excited about our collective future and wish Matt well in his future endeavors.”
Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government and was the long-time Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to make clear when the union updated its members that it wasn’t pursuing an outside investigation.