NPR Taps's Schiller As New CEO Vivian Schiller, currently senior vice president and general manager of The New York Times Web site, will take the reins at a challenging time, says NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. He explains why Schiller is qualified to solve the riddles that NPR faces.
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NPR Taps's Schiller As New CEO

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NPR Taps's Schiller As New CEO

NPR Taps's Schiller As New CEO

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And now, some news we here at NPR are making. We have a new CEO. Her name is Vivian Schiller. She comes from the New York Times, where she ran the paper's online division. And joining us to talk about her appointment is NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. And, David, tell us more about her. Who is she? I'm dying to know.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, her name is Vivian Schiller, as you said. She's currently at She runs that website. From my standpoint, it seems like a very impressive pick.

In her career, she's not only led the New York Times, she led Discovery Times Channel on cable, which was a joint venture. It did not play out, but it was very well thought of in terms of the journalism it did, and it sort of allowed the Times to experiment with operation in this multimedia world.

And before that, she was senior vice president, actually, at CNN, where she oversaw their long-form broadcasting, particularly the documentary work. Somebody who's a business manager, clearly, and yet very much steeped in the world of journalism and in the world of new journalism.

BRAND: And it is a very quickly changing world, isn't it? First of all, there is a lot less money out there now than there was a year ago, right? With advertising falling...

FOLKENFLIK: Absolutely the case. I also spoke with Howard Stevenson, who's the chairman of NPR's board, who was very happy with this pick, and he says, look, there are real challenges for all media right now. It's particularly tough if you look at the newspaper world, where revenues are declining.

He sees an opportunity there. He thinks NPR will be stronger than ever five years from now because there's an opportunity for NPR to retain listeners' interest, provide the service and value that it provides through its news and information shows.

That said, you know, as I pressed him about NPR's budget questions, he acknowledges that support from things like financial services companies and automakers, both of which at times have been underwriters for NPR and its member stations, you know, has significantly declined. So, he acknowledges there may be some rough roads ahead.

BRAND: And meanwhile, NPR is expanding into the digital world, and we're hiring a lot of people on that end. And it's interesting to note that Vivian Schiller does come from the world of online.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. She, you know, people tell me at the Times that she really gets it there. You know, we've had a number of new executives appointed, a senior executive for online from, a senior person from, both of which are highly lauded. She's said to really understand the opportunity.

When I talked to her, you know, one of the real riddles here for NPR is figuring out ways to resolve offering people NPR content and news any place, any time, anywhere, the mobile imperative, as it were, and at the same time taking care of our member stations who, after all, they're not affiliates. They belong to us, and we belong to them. And we have to serve them the best they can. If we are to undermine their financial model - a lot of them raise a significant amount of their funds from pledge drives on Morning Edition or All Things Considered - that would weaken them.

What she sees is an opportunity for us to be the rare national news outlet that has deep roots in local bases. She thinks that we are, in her words, the holy grail of national-local. It will be fascinating to see how she untangles that Gordian Knot.

BRAND: Well, maybe she will be blogging about that later. Or maybe you'll be blogging about that later.

FOLKENFLIK: More likely the latter than the former. But, uh...

BRAND: She'll be a little busy, maybe. All right, David Folkenflik covering media for NPR. Thanks, David.


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