Veteran Newspaper Editor Nancy Barnes Named NPR's Top News Executive Barnes, executive editor at the Houston Chronicle, was named as NPR's chief news executive. She fills the spot formerly held by Michael Oreskes, who was forced out over sexual harassment allegations.
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Veteran Newspaper Editor Nancy Barnes Named NPR's Top News Executive

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Veteran Newspaper Editor Nancy Barnes Named NPR's Top News Executive

Veteran Newspaper Editor Nancy Barnes Named NPR's Top News Executive

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Almost a year ago, November 1, 2017, I began a segment on this program with these words - we are reporting on news from inside the NPR newsroom today. The news that day was that our top editor, NPR Senior Vice President of News Mike Oreskes, had been forced out following allegations of sexual harassment. Well, today the next chapter of this story - NPR has hired a new head of news. Her name is Nancy Barnes. She is currently executive editor of Hearst Texas Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle. NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik is back to tell us more. Hello again, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: What else should we know about Nancy Barnes?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, she's earned a strong record of acclaim leading the Houston Chronicle journalistically. She also was a - well-regarded as editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She's received real recognition within the industry. Both newspapers won Pulitzers for their coverage under her leadership. She's the head of the American Society of News Editors. She's on the Pulitzer Prize Board - a fairly well-known figure in newspaper circles.

KELLY: So she has run papers in Minneapolis and in Houston? Does she have national news experience?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think that, you know, she would argue - and did argue to me when we talked last night - that Texas is essentially a country in miniature...

KELLY: (Laughter).

FOLKENFLIK: ...Or maybe not miniature.

KELLY: Fair point.

FOLKENFLIK: It undergoes many of the strains and tensions and dynamics of the nation at large, but it is a jump up to run a news organization with 17 foreign bureaus, 17 national bureaus. It's a different challenge and one that she's excited to take on but one that will test her.

KELLY: To recall that day last year, I interviewed our boss, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn, about the harassment allegations against Michael Oreskes, and Jarl Mohn told me this.

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JARL MOHN: I condemn his actions. They were unacceptable. They're deplorable.

KELLY: Which prompts a question to you, David. Was it a foregone conclusion, given the circumstances of Mike's departure, that his successor would be a woman?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, it's often said that women are asked to come in and clean up in difficult circumstances, and there is still tensions and concerns in the newsroom. You know, I can report about the lingering legacy of what we learned in the wake of the Oreskes scandal. That said, women, as you well know and as our listeners may know, have held all of the top titles at this news organization, both journalistically and corporately. And there were, as I understand it, men of prominence who were considered seriously for this job as well. So foredeemed, I think, is a bit of a stretch. But certainly, you know, it doesn't hurt to have somebody who's going to - as she promises to be - significantly sensitive to the concerns that have risen in the newsroom in the past year.

KELLY: Where does Nancy Barnes say she wants to take NPR? What does she want to do?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, she says she wants to enter with humility and listen for a while and learn. She just wants to preserve the strengths of foreign and national reporting, the storytelling, and that she wants to get a better handle on the network. That said, she also wants to further elevate what she calls our enterprise and investigative reporting and says she really wants to put an emphasis on that.

KELLY: We shall look forward to meeting her. That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thanks, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

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