CJR delivers progress report on Vivian Schiller’s agenda for NPR

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“I’m not a command-and-control person,” Vivian Schiller tells the Columbia Journalism Review in a feature on her first year as NPR president. “I lead by building consensus.” Schiller is addicted to her Blackberry, conducts lots of business via email and “has succeeded somewhat in piercing NPR’s infamous bureaucracy,” at least in the case of creating new business and reporting arrangements for Planet Money, the radio/online economics reporting collaboration with This American Life. CJR reporter Jill Drew also finds points of tension. Kevin Beesley, president of NPR’s AFTRA unit, questions a “larding of the management ranks” with recent hires Keith Woods, v.p. of diversity, and Susanne Reber, deputy managing editor for investigations. “Beesley’s concern is that too much money is being spent on managers, leaving little to improve the lot of the people who create NPR’s content,” CJR reports. And, among station leaders, not everyone has bought into Schiller’s push for local-national collaboration in online news and fundraising. American Public Media President Bill Kling, for one, questions the campaign for mega-gifts that Ron Schiller, NPR senior v.p. of development, is planning. “If I found a $10-million donor and Ron Schiller came to town and said, ‘Let’s split that,’ I’d say no,” Kling tells CJR. “Here the most important thing to do next is to get Minnesota Public Radio up to its full potential in professional news collection and dissemination.”

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