Wanyu Zhang/Wanyu Zhang
NPR’s chief information govt, Nancy Barnes, mentioned Friday she could be leaving the community, prompted by NPR CEO John Lansing’s resolution to create a brand new govt function above her.
A brand new chief content material officer will oversee NPR’s information and programming divisions, which have ceaselessly collaborated and nearly as ceaselessly clashed over assets and priorities.
“As a lot of you’ve famous to me and others, there may be more and more overlap between the Information and Programming divisions,” Barnes wrote in a memo to employees Friday afternoon. “Now’s the fitting time for me to pursue another alternatives.”
The event means NPR, one in all a handful of important gamers amongst nationwide information organizations, might be trying to find two high executives over information on the similar time.
Barnes referred to as her resolution “bittersweet,” however wrote that she supported Lansing’s resolution and requested that the employees give him their help as properly: “NPR is a nationwide gem. The work we do is critically necessary, now greater than ever.”
Barnes wrote that she would keep till at the very least late November. Each Lansing and Barnes declined to remark for this story.
NPR’s management in podcasting has made the favored audio kind one of many community’s rising sources of audiences and revenues lately. But that has come underneath duress from competitors from different public radio gamers and, extra lately, for-profit outfits–resulting in arms races for expertise, audiences and income.
Barnes and NPR’s senior vice chairman for programming and viewers growth, Anya Grundmann, usually disagreed on which podcasts or improvements to pursue. (Grundmann didn’t reply to a notice looking for remark.)
In response to a number of colleagues, Barnes was stunned to be taught what number of podcasts stemming from clearly journalistic efforts have been underneath Grundmann’s management, comparable to PlanetMoney. (A few of them have been in the end positioned underneath the steering of each executives.)
Lansing’s remarks in an preliminary memo to employees concerning the new govt job launched Friday morning forward of Barnes’ revelation advised that the community’s seek for a brand new chief content material officer was pushed by strategic objectives and monetary pressures. It mirrored the altering nature of the media enterprise, and the necessity to struggle for audiences.
“We’re funneling our worldwide, nationwide and native journalism into all obtainable platforms to achieve youthful and extra numerous audiences the place they’re,” Lansing wrote. “We’re additionally dealing with unprecedented aggressive pressures from business media in all these areas and the truth of our restricted assets as a non-profit.”
NPR faces elevated competitors from business shops
In response to the newest figures, courting again to spring, NPR has 24 million listeners of its broadcast exhibits, 8 million listeners of its podcasts and 16 million distinct guests to its web site each week.
Lansing introduced a nationwide seek for the chief content material officer, led by NPR Chief Folks Officer Selyn Hong with the search consulting agency Russell Reynolds Associates.
The transfer represents a back-to-the-future strategy. Lansing’s predecessor, Jarl Mohn, distributed with the place in 2014, saying he felt the manager on the time was giving up too readily on NPR’s promise in broadcasting amid adjustments in viewers conduct. Mohn argued that NPR ought to stretch its ambitions on all platforms.
There’s a philosophical in addition to bureaucratic stress at play: NPR at occasions alternates between contemplating itself one of many nation’s main information organizations that additionally presents music and humor, and a media firm with information as one key a part of its model and mission. (NPR presents the comedy present Wait Wait Do not Inform MeYouTube movies of “Tiny Desk Live shows” and music podcasts of Alt.Latinamongst many different initiatives.)
A newspaper veteran, Barnes inherited a newsroom scarred by #MeToo scandal
Barnes arrived at NPR in fall 2018 after main the newsrooms of the houston chronicle and the Minneapolis Star-Tribunetwo main regional information organizations with robust data of enterprise reporting.
She discovered herself confronted with the problem of serving to to revive a employees nonetheless shaken by the conduct and departure of her predecessor Michael Oreskes. He had been pressured out a 12 months earlier over a number of accusations of sexual harassment in the course of the #MeToo second.
Barnes helped NPR Information obtain substantive accomplishments in a interval buffeted by exterior crises that the community needed to each endure and canopy. She accelerated NPR’s investigative and enterprise reporting efforts; she helped map out reporting on the pandemic and the struggle in Ukraine; and broadened the community’s protection of problems with race, id and social justice.
As well as, she oversaw a extra aggressive stance in reporting on the rising menace to democracy from supporters of former President Donald Trump. Barnes additionally established a extra muscular presence for the community in masking local weather change. The newsroom continued to garner main accolades, profitable its first Pulitzer, in collaboration with two member stations, and changing into a Pulitzer finalist a number of occasions.
Underneath Barnes, NPR Information embraced analytical instruments in serving to to find out what tales to cowl, in what method, and on what platforms whereas nonetheless looking for to satisfy the community’s said public service mission. These instruments have been additionally deployed to trace extra absolutely hiring practices and the range of the folks NPR interviews of their tales and packages.
Lansing referred to as Barnes a “robust companion” in a notice to employees saying a nationwide seek for her alternative.
Even so, the newspaper veteran’s early tenure proved shaky and exhausting to surmount. Barnes took important time to stand up to hurry on the imperatives and rhythms of broadcast, the complexities of coping with the tons of of member stations that make up the general public radio system, and the more and more restive newsroom employees. Some public radio station executives felt they didn’t absolutely perceive her priorities.
An early slight of protection, and later issues over outstanding departures
One instance: an tackle to public radio station executives about the necessity to ramp up reporting on German points to folks of colour included the comment that NPR’s protection was “extra missing than we realized.” That was taken as a slight by the community’s Code Change crew, which had been established in 2013 and launched a podcast three years later. (She hailed its work when Apple named Code Change the podcast of the 12 months in 2020.)
In one other occasion, Barnes introduced she could be making focused layoffs to redirect assets towards her priorities; after an outcry, most of these affected, together with longtime correspondent David Welna, landed new positions at NPR.
She didn’t strike a powerful public presence as a journalism thought chief, as Oreskes had achieved; and Barnes was additionally characterised by many colleagues as aloof from her newsroom, although over time she weighed in with prolonged and laudatory notes to the information employees. The space pressured by the pandemic solely accentuated that notion.
Final winter, unease erupted into public view over the departure of 4 feminine NPR hosts of colour – every to different alternatives. Their selections had been influenced by frustrations over compensation, alternatives and help. A number of mentioned they’d discovered negotiations with the community troubling or offensive. Barnes’ high govt over information magazines left the community a number of months later. Even so, hiring of individuals of colour spiked upward at NPR and inside NPR Information throughout her time.
Friday afternoon, Barnes shared a warning whilst she struck a collegial tone in her notice to the newsroom.
“We serve the general public at a time when journalism is underneath assault and Individuals can’t all the time agree on a shared set of information,” Barnes wrote. “We additionally know that international locations comparable to China, Russia and Iran foster disinformation as a manner of destabilizing the USA. We have to stand robust as a trusted worldwide journalism group.”
Disclosure: This story was reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Deputy Enterprise Editor Emily Kopp and Chief Enterprise Editor Pallavi Gogoi. No senior information executives or company officers have been allowed to see this text earlier than it was posted publicly.