Enough is enough: WTOP’s GM addresses racist letter written to staffer

As I’m sure most people would assume, we get plenty of criticism at WTOP.

Sometimes it’s constructive: We need to use better grammar; we need to add more details to our stories; or we made a mistake.

Sometimes it’s about opinion: We are too left because we talk to liberals; or we are too right because we talk to conservatives.

And that’s all OK. We’re not perfect. We strive to be accurate all the time. We aim to be unbiased. At WTOP, we are glad to get the feedback. It makes us better — negative, positive and in-between.

Then there is the communication that really bothers me. The kind that is racist. The kind that gets my back up. Makes me angry. The kind that can’t go unaddressed.

Take a look at this letter we received recently:

This letter was sent to WTOP’s National Security Correspondent J.J. Green. J.J. has been doing an excellent job covering this critical area for well over a decade at WTOP. He is an award-winning journalist who is highly respected in the halls of the Pentagon, Langley and beyond. We are very fortunate to have him working with us. He makes us better and helps our area be more informed.

But J.J. is much more than a great reporter to me. He is my friend. I’ve known him for over 30 years. We met playing basketball in the ’80s. We started working together at WTOP in the ’90s. We’ve been through a lot together, and I have nothing but respect for one of the smartest and most caring people I know.

That’s J.J. Green.

On his own dime and his own time, J.J. also creates and produces the weekly podcast, “Colors: A Dialogue on Race in America.” Since its debut just over a year ago, he and co-host Chris Core have done a tremendous job taking a hard look at race relations. They’ve done it in a balanced, thoughtful and insightful way.

To me, that’s why this person from “Bowie 1504” is writing to us. Like many, they immediately attack and discredit what they do not understand instead of taking the time to first listen and learn.

J.J. is Black. And I’m white. Shouldn’t matter, right? But obviously it does to the person who wrote this letter. My goal with my response to this is to expose this kind of racial intolerance and ignorance in the hopes of putting more and more of it behind us for good.

To the “Former WTOP Fan” who wrote us this letter, your words are proof that this country still has work to do. Please know that letters like this one will not slow us down. In fact, they make us redouble our efforts. J.J.’s efforts got to this person. They struck a nerve. Good. We hope that means we’re making an impact.

“Colors” and many other podcasts, articles, books and speeches are resonating more strongly than ever, which gives me hope. It is long past time to move to a better place when it comes to race.

I am committed to leading WTOP and Federal News Network to that more diverse, equitable and inclusive place, and using our platforms to make a difference where it really matters in our community.

I hope you’re with me in getting to that place, too.


Joel Oxley is senior vice president and general manager of WTOP and Federal News Network. Oxley has served as general manager since 1998.

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