Comings and goings: LaFontaine E. Oliver named NPR board chair, Erica Peterson leaving Louisville Public Media …

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NPR’s board appointed LaFontaine E. Oliver as chair during a meeting Friday.


Oliver, who is serving his second term on the board, is GM of WYPR in Baltimore. As chair, he succeeds Paul Haaga Jr., a retired venture capitalist. 

Oliver was tapped to lead WYPR last year. He previously worked as GM of WMFE in Orlando, Fla., and as GM of Baltimore’s WEAA-FM.

“This effort around making sure that NPR programming and content continues to make strides, as far as representation is concerned, is probably the number one priority,” Oliver said in a news story for WYPR. “I would not have accepted the nomination if I didn’t feel like the leadership of NPR also believes that.”


Erika Pulley-Hayes, CEO of WMFE, was also elected Friday to fill an unexpired term vacancy on the board due to the departure of Wonya Lucas, former CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta. The board’s Governance Committee nominated Pulley-Hayes to a three-year term beginning in November, subject to election by the network’s membership in a ballot that opens next month.

On a separate ballot, representatives of the Public Radio Satellite System ratified the board’s election of Mollie Kabler, executive director of Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc., to a three-year term as a non-board Distribution/Interconnection Committee member beginning in November.

Louisville Public Media announced changes to its newsroom.


Director of News and Programming Erica Peterson is leaving the station to become managing editor of Mountain State Spotlight, a nonprofit newsroom based in West Virginia. Peterson joined the station in 2011 as a reporter and was later promoted to assignment editor and news director. Before that, she worked as a reporter and producer for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

“I’m so excited about this next chapter & a chance to do some kickass work in a place that’s always been very dear to my heart,” Peterson said on Twitter. “That being said, Louisville has been home for a long time, and we will truly miss this amazing place and community. This is a special place, and I’m excited to watch from afar and see how this city continues to grow and change.”


Jonese Franklin was promoted to PD. Franklin joined the station in 2016 as a digital editor and has also worked as newsroom editor and as host of the podcasts Here Today, Recut and the WFPL Daily News Briefing. She will continue to be local host of All Things Considered. Before Louisville Public Media, Franklin was a news content manager and host for WEKU in Richmond, Ky. LPM is searching for a new news director.


The station also hired Suhail Bhat as a data reporter. His first day with the station is Sept. 28. Bhat, a 2020 graduate of the data journalism program at Columbia Journalism School, was a correspondent for Reuters and has worked as a business writer for DNA, based in Mumbai, India.


Carmichael and Madden

Rodney Carmichael and Sidney Madden will host Louder Than a Riot, a new podcast for NPR Music that discusses the “interconnected rise of hip hop and mass incarceration,” according to a news release. Weekly episodes will be released starting Oct. 8. The podcast “tells a powerful story about race, music, injustice and power that resonates deeply with this moment in American history,” said Senior Director of NPR Music Lauren Onkey in the release.


Benjamin Chavis will host The Chavis Chronicles, a weekly public affairs talk show starting in October. The program about race in America will be distributed by American Public Television. Chavis is CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. He was also the executive director of the NAACP and national director for the Million Man March. The Chavis Chronicles will be produced by CRW Worldwide Inc., led by Clara Wilkerson. Wilkerson has produced several programs for PBS about health and wellness.


Earl Arms was named host of Black Nouveau, a public affairs program on Milwaukee PBS. Arms will replace Joanne Williams, who was named host in 2012. Williams may continue to submit stories for the program, according to a statement from Chief Content Officer Chris Hays. Arms will keep his position as the media relations manager for Milwaukee Public Schools. He has also been the communications director for Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and a reporter and anchor for several stations, including WDJT, a CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, and WEYI, an NBC affiliate in Saginaw, Mich.


Elliott Ramos, a data editor for WBEZ in Chicago, was hired by NBC News to work on its graphics team. Ramos first joined the station in 2011 as a data reporter and web producer. After leaving to rejoin the Wall Street Journal as a mobile editor, he returned to Chicago Public Media as a digital editor. He has also been a senior web editor for the New York Daily News.

Ken Mills, publisher of the Spark News daily blog about public media, announced in a statement that he stopped updating the blog in July because he “experienced a sudden loss of visual activity in his left eye, his only working eye.” The vision loss was caused by a severe allergic reaction to eye drops that were prescribed by an ophthalmologist, Mills said. His right eye was injured during a surgery in 2003, which led to him becoming legally blind in that eye. Mills is now learning to use accessibility devices and software to continue his reporting. “I apologize to my readers for my lack of communication. The change happened without warning. For several weeks I didn’t know what caused my vision loss or how I should cope with it,” he said in a statement. “I intend to continue working in public media and my spirit is strong. I deeply miss writing and publishing Spark News.”

Carol Marin, a correspondent for WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, wil step down from the station after the November elections, according to media critic Robert Feder. Marin will also step down as the political editor for WMAQ-TV, an NBC affiliate. “It’s time to get off the stage,” Marin told Feder. “Everybody needs to know the time for the last performance. I’ve had a great run, but I want to walk off the news stage when I feel great about it still, when I’ve got great relationships still, and when I feel the work is solid.” Marin has also worked for the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes and as a political columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.


Melody Rowell left her position as an editor for KCUR in Kansas City, Mo. “After 6 months of uncertainty around my job, in the midst of all this uncertainty in the world, I decided to resign and take back ownership of my career,” she said on Twitter. “I don’t really know what’s next, but I’m looking.” Rowell said she will continue contributing to National Geographic, where she once worked as an assistant photo editor, and producing the Strict Scrutiny podcast for The Appeal, a nonprofit newsroom. Rowell joined KCUR in 2018 as a producer for Central Standard. She has also been a contract producer and program coordinator for WAMU in Washington, D.C.


Adia White stepped up to the role of news director for Northern California Public Media in Rohnert Park. Previously the assistant news director, White joined the station in 2018. She succeeds Steve Mencher, who left the position to move to Baltimore. He will run Mensch Media, his production company. Mencher joined the station in 2017.


Danielle Castle was hired as education director for Basin PBS in Odessa, Texas. Castle previously worked as a teacher at Lee High School in Midland, Texas. She was teacher of the year in 2019 and Region 18’s secondary teacher of the year in 2020, according to a news release. “I’ve always been intrigued by a wide array of topics and jobs. I think that’s why I loved teaching so much. Teaching is a job that requires you to utilize so many different skills to serve the needs of others,” Castle said in the release. “PBS allows me the flexibility to draw upon a variety skill sets and knowledge to serve my community. I am deeply honored to steward the resources we have to support initiatives that enlighten and educate others!”

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