Chicago Public Media has hired Andi McDaniel as its CEO, the station announced Tuesday.
McDaniel joins Chicago Public Media from WAMU in Washington, D.C., where she has served as chief content officer since 2015 and led the development of the national program 1A, which airs on 375 public radio stations. McDaniel replaces Goli Sheikholeslami, who left Chicago Public Media to lead New York Public Radio in October.
In the new role, McDaniel will lead NPR station WBEZ and the urban alternative music station Vocalo.
“The board is unanimous in its belief that Andi is the right person to lead Chicago Public Media as we continue to deliver high-quality, in-depth journalism and innovative original programming,” said Bryan Traubert, chair of Chicago Public Media’s board of directors, in a press release.
McDaniel said it is “brutally difficult” to leave WAMU and her team at the station. “But the opportunity to have the top job at WBEZ, which is a station I’ve admired since I discovered public radio with This American Life when I was 20, is one that I just can’t pass up,” she said.
McDaniel grew up in nearby Schaumburg, Ill., and still has family nearby, so the job opportunity was “pretty irresistible,” she said.
At WBEZ, she hopes to build on Sheikholeslami’s effort to grow local news.
“I’m excited to build on that both because there are all these great people and resources in place to deliver local news and be more essential than ever, but also because I think there’s still lots to figure out about where to reach people, how to reach them at a greater scale, how to truly become a daily habit for people,” she said. “… We’re going to have to weave WBEZ more into the daily lives of Chicagoans in order for it to really sustain itself with new business models.”
McDaniel, who built WAMU’s podcast division, said WBEZ is doing “incredible work in podcasts, too, and I see a ton of opportunity in continuing to build on that.”
She said she’s proud that during her time at WAMU listenership has become more reflective of the region’s demographics. The station’s African American listenership has more than doubled, and its audience of listeners ages 25–44 has grown 13% under her leadership, according to Chicago Public Media’s release.
McDaniel said she can’t say for sure what brought about the change but that she believes “it really started with working to make the staff more reflective of the region, so that the people who are sitting around the table and having conversations about what to cover on 1A or what to cover in local news are more reflective of this place and its communities.”
The station has also changed its sound so that it’s “not just a station that you could be tuning into anywhere in the country,” she said.
“That meant bringing in some new voices, and it also meant simple things like swapping out our interstitial music so that it’s all local — you’re hearing go-go on the air, you’re hearing textures and sounds that are part of this place,” she said. “And I think that those are all subtle ways that you can make a station sound more inclusive to the people who actually live in the place.”
Steve Edwards will continue to lead Chicago Public Media as interim CEO until McDaniel begins in the role Sept. 28, following maternity leave.
“I couldn’t be more pleased by Andi’s selection as our next president and CEO,” said Edwards. “She’s the ideal person to lead our organization as we seek to create meaningful connections among younger, more diverse audiences across audio and digital platforms.”