Torey Malatia, longtime president and c.e.o. of Chicago Public Media, has resigned effective immediately.
Chicago Public Media confirmed his resignation in a statement Friday. Its board of directors will launch a nationwide search for Malatia’s replacement.
Malatia announced his resignation to the board Friday morning, Steve Baird, president of the board of directors, told Current later that afternoon.
“I think for most people it’s a total surprise,” Baird said. “Torey is very well regarded here, very well regarded nationally. He did a tremendous job building the station here.”
Citing unnamed sources, Crain’s Chicago Business has reported that the board had asked Malatia to resign. One source said tension over “lackluster recent ratings” had been growing between Malatia and the board.
Baird and other board members announced Malatia’s resignation to the staff Friday afternoon. Malatia was not present for the announcement.
Baird said the board hopes to announce a way to honor Malatia’s contributions to the organization in the coming weeks. He floated the possibility of naming a studio after him.
“We want to do something that is meaningful to him,” Baird said.
Malatia joined WBEZ in 1993 as v.p. of programming and rose to president and g.m. in 1996. During his 20 years with the station, he reduced air time devoted to music and emphasized news and information and helped launch two of public radio’s most popular nationally distributed shows, This American Life and Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me! Malatia also experimented with innovative local initiatives such as Vocalo, a station of primarily user-generated content, which struggled to engage its target young audience and after several revamps is now programming a more traditional format of music and information.
“It has been my honor to lead the transformation of what was a fine radio station into an internationally revered institution on the cutting edge of trans-platform in-depth journalism,” Malatia said in a statement released Friday by Chicago Public Media. “For me, having been given the unforgettable privilege of working with this brilliant staff and supportive board, marshaling the next wave of public service journalism is more than a choice; it is a calling … I have eternal thanks and deep admiration for those many wonderful trustees and staff who have passionately supported our stunning successes.”
Malatia did not indicate plans for the future but noted that “the next innovation project must come for me now by leading another institution.”
His relationship with the station’s board of directors had grown “increasingly difficult in recent years,” according to longtime Chicago media reporter Robert Feder, citing unnamed sources. Feder broke the news of Malatia’s resignation today.
Alison Scholly, currently c.o.o., will serve as interim c.e.o. until the position is permanently filled. Baird said he’s not worried about attracting new talent.
“We think this is a great place and will attract a lot of interest,” he said.
This item and its headline were updated Saturday to reflect the report from Crain’s.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized comments by WBEZ board President Steve Baird. It implied that members of the board had been surprised by Malatia’s resignation. Baird said that “most people” were surprised. The story and its headline have been revised to reflect his comments.