NPR Names Thomas Hjelm to New Role of Chief Digital Officer

He comes over from New York Public Radio.

NPR picks up New York Public Radio’s chief digital officer, Thomas Hjelm, who will join the organization in the same role. It is a new position for NPR, focused on digital innovation and anticipating and reaching out to audiences wherever they happen to be and however they’re getting their news.

“[Tom] joins an excellent leadership team that has demonstrated a deep commitment to strengthening public service journalism and growing audiences,” said NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn in a statement. “To further these goals and to solidify our partnership with our Member stations, I wanted someone who had proven digital leadership and direct public radio station experience; Tom exemplifies both. He is ideally suited to help us pursue an integrated strategy that reaches and engages audiences in new ways across a fast-changing landscape of digital platforms.”

That Hjelm is coming from a member station is likely an important point, given the updated guidelines NPR issued last week regarding the mention of NPR podcasts during news programs, guidelines that suggested a disconnect between the needs of NPR and the needs of its member stations. “We won’t tell people to actively download a podcast or where to find them. No mentions of npr.org, iTunes, Stitcher, NPR One, etc,” wrote news programming vp Chris Turpin of the changes.

The move was viewed by many as a capitulation to member stations who felt threatened by the digital competition, even though the decision can potentially stunt the growth of NPR’s audience for its podcasts and products like the NPR One app.

Hjelm starts at the end of April. NPR’s current vp of digital media and digitals services, Zach Brand, will be stepping down at the end of next month.