NPR’s Changes, The Memo

NPR’s Jay Kernis sent out an internal memo this morning, following the news of Bill Marimow’s resignation. Full memo when you click below…

This morning, we are announcing some changes within NPR News.

First, let me share with you that Bill Marimow has resigned as Vice President for News, effective immediately, and will assume the job of NPR Ombudsman. While a note from Bill follows this memo, let me say that we all appreciate the contribution he has made to our news division — first as Managing Editor and more recently as Vice President. Bill leaves a newsroom that is stronger in its investigations, research and daily reporting. Bill’s skills also make him a great fit for the Ombudsman role, which demands an appreciation for powerful journalism and how NPR delivers it day in, day out. I’m pleased that he will continue to offer us all advice and guidance.

Moving forward, we have three critical goals for the next few months: to quickly but thoughtfully fill the VP position, maintain continuity in the division and advance our news growth projects, including creation of the digital newsroom and the continual improvement of our radio programming. I believe we have put together a solid transition plan to achieve these.

First, we will be posting the VP position immediately and have retained Sucherman Consulting Group to identify a broad, diverse pool of national candidates. Sucherman is the leading national search firm for broadcast media senior journalism executives and has worked with all the major news organizations. I am bringing the Sucherman executives leading this search to NPR sometime next week and setting up informational meetings for them with a cross-section of news staff to help fine-tune their understanding of the qualities we’re seeking.

Also, we have put in place a very strong interim news management team, and we are confident that they will not just maintain stability but move the division forward. As part of this effort, we have crafted a new interim structure for this group that creates separate managing editor teams for news coverage and for shows/newscasts.

The key appointments are:

Ellen Weiss will serve as Acting Vice President, with full authority for the operations of the division. David Sweeney will assume her former position, National Desk Editor, on an interim basis.

Barbara Rehm will be Acting Senior Managing Editor for news coverage. She will be working with an Acting Assistant Managing Editor to be named shortly. Barbara will also serve as back-up to Ellen in leading the team.

We are creating a new Managing Editor position to supervise shows and newscasts. Joining us in that role on a temporary basis will be Richard Harris, who spent nine years as senior producer of “Nightline” and “This Week” at ABC, but is equally well-known around NPR for his eight years at “All Things Considered,” advancing from production assistant to executive producer. Working with Richard as Assistant Managing Editor for shows and newscasts is Audrey Wynn, who already holds a similar position.

Additionally, we are naming J.J. Sutherland as Acting Managing Editor for Digital Media. Filling this position, which has been posted and for which we have been interviewing, will help us drive the convergent newsroom concept closer to reality. He will be working with Peggy Girshman, who was named last week as Managing Editor of the overall Newsroom of the Future project.

Cinny Kennard will continue to provide the important leadership for our news and program activities generating at NPR West.

These people will work closely with our skilled senior news managers, and both Ken Stern and I have committed to taking an active, visible role in all these efforts.

Of course, while this is a smart, effective and cohesive team, our hope is that this interim arrangement is as brief as possible. We will be working thoughtfully but rapidly to create a diverse, qualified applicant pool for the VP position, with the help of Sucherman and the guidance of an internal search committee. We know this opening is going to attract a high calibre of news executives and we are excited about starting the recruitment process.

I appreciate your support, both for this transition plan and for the team that is leading it for us, and know you will also welcome Bill to the critical role of NPR Ombudsman.