Minnesota Public Radio has dismissed three employees with long, deep ties to its landmark show “A Prairie Home Companion,” including the son of former host Garrison Keillor.
“I treasured my 22 years working in public radio, but the business has changed,” said Jason Keillor, who held a variety of jobs on “PHC” and its new offshoot, “Live From Here,” including the assembly of repeat programs. “I think right now, MPR is promoting their new brand and it’s very expensive. They’re running a tight ship despite their deep pockets.”
Also dismissed Friday were Prairie Home Productions managing director Kate Gustafson, who rose to be Keillor’s second-in-command, and publicist David O’Neill, who started working on the show when he was 12. Both declined to comment.
In an e-mail Monday, Garrison Keillor described O’Neill as an “enormously competent and loyal guy ... one of the last persons around who knows the history of the place” and praised Gustafson as an “indispensable” person who unofficially served as the office’s village therapist and truth-teller.
“They’re replacing her with a bunch of faceless suits,” he wrote. “Good luck with that.”
Last November, MPR severed ties with its biggest name, saying an internal investigation found that Keillor had engaged in inappropriate behavior with an employee. The woman had reported her concerns to Gustafson as early as 2011, but ultimately Gustafson did not intervene. Keillor has said the relationship was mutual and that he backed off when the staffer complained in 2015.
Last winter MPR renamed the show “Live From Here,” which will start a new season later this year.
“We’re deeply grateful to those individuals whose jobs have been eliminated or changed,” said MPR director of communications Angie Andresen. “We’ve imagined some new experiences for audiences. The changes we are planning require some changes to the team and in how we do some of our work.”
A fourth employee of the show was offered a reassignment that would change her position from full-time to part-time; her decision is still pending.
Andresen said there are currently nine MPR employees working on “Live From Here,” two of whom live outside Minnesota. She anticipates additional hires before the season kicks off. At the height of “PHC,” almost 20 people worked on the show.