ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
NPR has a new CEO. His name is John Lansing, a veteran media executive who has experience in cable TV and public service media. He's taking over for Jarl Mohn, who is stepping down after fulfilling his five-year term. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is reporting on this.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Tell us about who John Lansing is.
FOLKENFLIK: John Lansing started out as a young man - a teenager - as a photojournalist, worked in TV newsrooms, rose ultimately to be the head over local television stations for the Scripps Company and then headed their basket of cable channels, which included the Food Network, HGTV and a couple others. He's more recently - since 2015, he was appointed by President Obama to be the head of what is now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media. It oversees international broadcasters like the Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe and others that reach hundreds of millions of people each month, broadcast abroad but not here, offering people both news and also programming - sort of a soft form of diplomacy.
SHAPIRO: What has defined his tenure over the last four years at the U.S. Agency for Global Media?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's been renowned, you know? A decade ago or so, I did a lot of reports on how dysfunctional that agency was, and it was over a series of administrations. He's brought real order to it as its first CEO, installing a clear line of command, a clarity of the direction philosophically, a greater degree of insulation from sort of political infighting on the board. After all, the board is appointed by the government, and there is some sense of, at times, partisan efforts to pressure these journalists that are protected by statute.
But he's also been a champion for the idea of a free press abroad, the importance of it in companies - or, excuse me - in countries that want to have emerging democracies. And it's been a message that he's been resilient about, and it's been a message that's resonated here at home as well as journalists and the idea of a free press unfettered has, at times, come under attack from the highest office in the land.
SHAPIRO: What is NPR looking for from a new CEO? What did the company set out to find?
FOLKENFLIK: You know, I talked to the vice chair of the NPR board, Goli Sheikholeslami. She's the CEO of Chicago Public Media, going to hold the same job at WNYC in New York, our largest member station. She said, you know, among other things, NPR's facing a lot of the same challenges that other media organizations are - the disruption, the digital age, the idea of maintaining or growing our traditional outlets on radio, our shows like this one - and at the same time, expanding our offerings digitally in terms of podcasts, streaming and the like.
She thought that John had shown real initiative in both TV and at the international broadcasting agency on that, and she said that, you know, he was resolutely committed to important initiatives here at NPR, the idea of the culture of the workplace. After all, just a little under two years ago, our former news chief, Mike Oreskes, was forced out, which raised a host of questions over #MeToo and the questions of gender equity in the newsroom and other questions about how employees were treated and regarded.
SHAPIRO: Have you had a chance to talk to him yet - John Lansing himself?
FOLKENFLIK: I did. I spoke to him earlier today, and he talked about the idea of NPR as a public mission, a public service equipping people to be citizens - the idea this was untethered from a profit motive and, at the same time, that he wanted to press ahead to ensure that NPR had the resources it needed to not only continue what it provides but expand what it provides not only through the airwaves but online and in as many ways as we could imagine to deliver news, information, entertainment and more to our audiences.
SHAPIRO: That is NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on the network's new CEO just announced this evening joining us today from member station WBUR in Boston.
Thank you, David.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
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