NPR announces new COO, departure of Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson

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NPR President Jarl Mohn, who stepped into the role July 1, announced today a new COO and the departure of Kinsey Wilson, executive v.p. and chief content officer since February 2012. The new COO is Loren Mayor, currently senior v.p. of strategy.

Mohn also shuffled NPR Music, which formerly reported to Wilson, to report to the network’s senior v.p. of news. Eric Nuzum, v.p. of the programming division that comprises NPR’s non-news shows, will report to Chief Marketing Officer Emma Carrasco.

UPDATE (Oct 6, 2:53pm): 

In an interview with Current, Mohn said the reorganization underscored the organization’s commitment to its journalism and news programming. “We are, at our heart, a news organization,” Mohn said.

Under the new structure, the senior v.p. of news reports directly to the c.e.o. That position opened earlier this year with the departure of Margaret Low Smith. Chris Turpin has held the job on an interim basis while NPR has worked to fill the position. The news veep previously reported to Wilson.

“The most important thing is that I have a strong relationship with the senior v.p. of news,” Mohn said. “And this removes a layer of management.”

Wilson joined NPR in 2008 as senior v.p. and g.m. of digital media. In February 2012 he was named chief content officer. He will leave NPR by the end of the week, a time frame that Mohn said resulted from the restructuring.

“It kind of put him in a lame-duck position that wasn’t fair to him or the organization,” Mohn said.

Mohn said he wanted to send a “strong message” that news is NPR’s top priority. But he did not want to signal any reduction in attention paid to music and entertainment. NPR will continue to search for new content, wherever it comes from, he said. A new show is slated for launch in January; Mohn declined to share further details.

“We have an open policy about who produces a show. We may wholly own it, we may partner, or we may distribute,” Mohn said. “There are benefits to all three approaches. The biggest thing is the creation of a great idea.”

The new structure will allow NPR to push to grow audience rather than accept flat or declining numbers going forward, he said.

“My point of view is that I see terrific upside on the broadcast side of the business,” Mohn said. “The legacy radio business still reaches about 92 percent of Americans every week and we reach 30 million people every seven days. I’m bullish on radio.”

Yet the network will not curtail its efforts on digital platforms to meet audiences wherever they might listen. “We are continuing to grow digitally,” he said. “I’m proud of what Kinsey started with iTunes Radio and NPR One.”

Among station representatives, Tom Michael, g.m. of Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas, said he appreciated Wilson’s work on bolstering NPR’s digital efforts. “I thought Kinsey’s focus on digital was the kick in the pants the network needed,” Michael said. “But I think Mohn wants to build his own team, and that’s fine, too.”

UPDATE (Oct 6, 3:25pm): We also talked with Charlie Kravetz, g.m. of Boston’s WBUR. Kravetz said that while he supports Mohn, he disagreed with cutting Wilson’s position.

“I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this,” Kravetz said. “I’m a big believer in the contributions Kinsey Wilson made. As a visionary, he led NPR into the digital landscape in a very bold way, and it’s a great loss for NPR and public radio that he’s gone.”

“Jarl has a vision, and I hope he’s right,” Kravetz added. “He’s very smart and devoted, and I’ll do everything I can to support him every step of the way, but this is not a decision I can say I embrace.”

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik tweeted the news this morning, with context.

Here’s a memo from Mohn, provided by NPR:

Dear Colleagues,

It’s been just over 90 days since my first day on the job, and I’m even more enthusiastic about our future. From day one I’ve said my most important responsibility will be to secure the resources that allow you to do the best work of your careers and to ensure that NPR and our Member Station community not only grow but thrive.

Today I’m announcing a reorganization of the senior leadership team that enables us to deliver on that commitment.

First, Loren Mayor, Senior Vice President of Strategy, has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer.

As many of you know, Loren brings a sharp strategic lens to NPR and has demonstrated her ability to convene and advance conversations across the entirety of the organization. Thanks to her leadership, we have our first strategic plan in 10 years. It clearly lays out our four strategic priorities: create exceptional content; expand, diversify and engage our audience; collaborate; and grow net revenue.

As part of the reorganization, Kinsey Wilson, Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer, will leave NPR after six years of vital contributions.

Loren will manage the daily operations across the organization, enabling me to focus on areas that most immediately impact content, station relations, philanthropy and corporate underwriting, and audience development (research, positioning, promotion, marketing), and help build NPR’s public profile.

I’ll naturally be involved in strategic decisions across the organization, but areas that will report up to Loren are: Corporate Strategy, Digital Media, Digital Services, Diversity, Engineering/IT, Human Resources, Member Partnership, and Policy and Representation.

Given my commitment to ensuring that NPR journalism continues to thrive as a preeminent and trusted news source, the newly selected Senior Vice President of News will report to the CEO. Our priority is to continue the quality and reach of our news programming across all platforms, especially for Morning Edition and All Things Considered. I will continue the practice of not being involved in day-to-day editorial decision-making and will have the same “publisher” relationship with the SVP of News that exists at other media organizations.

Chris Turpin will remain as acting head of news while we search for someone to fill that spot permanently.

Anya Grundmann, Director and Executive Producer of NPR Music, will report to the SVP of News, and Sarah Lumbard, VP of Content Strategy and Operations, Zach Brand, VP of Digital Media, and Bob Kempf, VP of Digital Services, will report to Loren. Eric Nuzum, VP of Programming, will report to Chief Marketing Officer Emma Carrasco, whose portfolio will expand to include audience development and the alignment of promotion and marketing across all platforms. All news-focused programming will eventually shift to the SVP of News, while non-news programs will continue to be led by Eric. All previously reported to Kinsey. Kinsey’s position will not be filled.

Kinsey, whose last day in the office will be Friday, joined NPR in October 2008 as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Digital Media. He is widely credited with positioning NPR as a leader in the digital space, building editorial excellence and growing audience across platforms. He was promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer in 2012, with responsibility for NPR’s worldwide newsgathering, programming, and digital operations. Under his leadership, NPR’s news and cultural coverage has flourished and been recognized with numerous broadcast and digital journalism awards. He championed NPR’s investigative reporting, led the development of new areas of editorial focus including Code Switch, expanded education and global health coverage, and created NPR’s new Culture and Identity unit. He forged groundbreaking partnerships with WBUR’s Here & Now and more recently with Marketplace Morning Report. And he oversaw the development of successful new programs, including TED Radio Hour and Ask Me Another.

Kinsey also spearheaded efforts to adapt NPR’s programming to changing audience demands and to extend the organization’s influence and reach. He sponsored an ongoing effort to deepen NPR’s editorial ties with Member Stations. He championed the development of the Public Media Platform, forged a deal to make NPR the first news and information service on Apple’s iTunes Radio, and drove the vision and fundraising for NPR’s newest digital listening platform, NPR One, which launched in July.

I understand these changes may be disruptive to you but you have my assurance that the transition of responsibilities will be as seamless as possible. We will have an opportunity to discuss these changes during the upcoming all-staff meeting on October 8 at 12:30 PM ET.

While other outlets in our line of work have been retrenching, NPR has remained a leading brand in American journalism and a unique national asset. We must leverage this asset more than ever. Thanks to the commitment of our Member Stations, staff, listeners and sponsors, we have a bright future.

Please join me in congratulating Loren on her new role and thanking Kinsey for his years of leadership and service.