Comings and goings: Mike Riksen will leave NPR, Yolanda Sangweni joins as senior director of programming …

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Mike Riksen, VP for policy and representation for NPR, is leaving the organization. Riksen joined NPR in 2003 after working as a corporate lobbyist.


In a memo to staff obtained by Current, CEO John Lansing said Riksen will leave at the end of February. “There are few people who can match Mike’s depth of expertise in public radio’s needs and policymaking,” Lansing said. “This work is vital, and we will move quickly and with great care to find his successor.”

Additionally, Yolanda Sangweni was hired as a senior director for programming. She will also be executive sponsor for shows including Throughline and Code Switch.


Sangweni previously worked as director of programming and editorial for Luminary, a subscription audio company. She has also worked as a podcast host and digital content director for Essence and as a founder and editor of AfriPOP!, a publication focused on African culture.

“I am thrilled to join NPR, an organization I have always looked to as the gold standard of masterful storytelling,” Sangweni said in a note to staff. “To be part of a diverse team that gets to cultivate a deeper understanding of ideas and culture in these times, as an immigrant born in South Africa, I know this to be both a privilege and an honor. I am excited to contribute my voice and experience to creating impactful programming.”

The NPR Foundation Board elected seven new trustees who will begin three-year terms.


The trustees include Paul Haaga Jr., a retired venture capitalist who was board chair for NPR before being succeeded by LaFontaine E. Oliver this year.

The other trustees are:

  • Sanju Bansal, a co-founder of the business software company MicroStrategy and chairman for Hunch Analytics;
  • Harold Brierley, a former executive for Pan American World Airways and Continental Airlines and founder of the consulting firm Brierley+Partners;
  • Jesse Byrd, a writer and editor who previously worked as an editor-in-chief for Ernst & Young and as an account manager for Google;
  • Nancy Richards Farese, a photographer and founder of PhotoPhilanthropy and CatchLight;
  • Dr. Lawrence Harkless, the interim dean for the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley School of Podiatry and founding dean emeritus and professor emeritus for the Western University Health Sciences College of Podiatric Medicine; and
  • Michele Janin, a member of the executive committee for WFYI in Indianapolis who also chairs the Planned Parenthood of Indiana Political Action Committee.

Chris Phelps is leaving her position as VP of content for Cincinnati Public Radio.


“Yes, after 30 years, the day has come for one more adventure before really retiring. However, there is no news release because an end date has not yet been set,” Phelps told Current in an email. “I am pretty flexible at the moment. So, it gives Cincinnati Public Radio the opportunity to begin the search for a new person to join the leadership team as VP, Content and, hopefully, have a smooth transition.”

Phelps became a promotions coordinator in 1991 for WGUC, a classical music station owned by Cincinnati Public Radio. She was also a marketing director and VP of marketing for the station before becoming VP of marketing for Cincinnati Public Radio. She became VP of content in 2013.

Julia Longoria will host The Experiment, a forthcoming podcast produced by WNYC Studios in New York City and The Atlantic.


The podcast, which examines America’s history, will launch early next year.

Longoria previously worked as a producer for The Daily and Rabbit Hole for the New York Times. She also worked as a fellow, reporter and producer for WNYC, including Radiolab, between 2014–19.

Tracie Hunte announced on Twitter that she will be a correspondent and producer for the podcast. Hunte, who joined WNYC in 2010, has worked as an assistant producer, associate producer and reporter for Radiolab. She has also been a production secretary for ABC News.


Additional production personnel, according to a spokesperson, includes:

  • Development EP Matt Collette, who is EP of Trump, Inc., a podcast co-produced by WNYC and ProPublica. Collette has also been a senior producer for Post Reports, the Washington Post’s daily news podcast. 
  • Associate Producer Gabrielle Berbey, an assistant editor for the upcoming PBS docuseries about Muhammad Ali directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon. She has also been a podcast associate producer and digital production assistant for Frontline.
  • Sound Engineer David Herman, a producer, composer, sound designer and mix engineer for WNYC.
  • Production coordinator Natalia Ramirez, an executive assistant for music at New York Public Radio.

“We’re thrilled to be joining creative forces with The Atlantic, and together supporting this talented team,” said Andrew Golis, chief content officer at WNYC, in a news release. “This last year has taught us all how personally consequential world events can be, and how important it is that the brilliant storytellers and reporters are there to help us through them. The Experiment will be essential listening for all of us as we try to understand this country, and each other.”



Yara Bayoumy joined NPR as a deputy international editor. Bayoumy previously worked as a national security editor for The Atlantic. She has also held several positions with Reuters, including as correspondent in Beirut, Dubai and Nairobi, acting bureau chief in Cairo and deputy national security and foreign policy editor.

Sean McMinn announced on Twitter that he will be a data editor for a new NPR team that will partner with member stations to produce local investigative journalism. McMinn joined the organization in 2018. He previously worked as a data reporter for CQ Roll Call.


Cardiff Garcia is leaving his position as a co-host of The Indicator, a daily NPR podcast produced by the Planet Money team. Garcia, who joined the program in 2017, said on Twitter that his last day will be at the end of March. “The only reason I’m leaving this great place is that there’s an independent project I’ve been dreaming of pursuing for a long while, and now is the right time to try it,” he said, adding that he hopes to collaborate with NPR in the future. Garcia previously worked as a podcast host, writer and editor for the Financial Times


Mark Memmott is leaving his position as statewide managing editor for the Texas Newsroom, the statewide collaboration launched with support from NPR. “There’s a great job opening up in Texas — mine! I’m going to try what I think of as semi-retirement in the new year,” Memmott said on LinkedIn. “I’ll be doing some editing here in Texas, hopefully some consulting for newsrooms that would like to hear from me, and who knows what else.” Memmott started the position in January. Before that, he worked as a standards and practices editor and news blogger for NPR. 

Shalina Chatlani was hired as healthcare reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a regional collaboration between NPR and member stations in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. She will be based at WWNO in New Orleans, and her first day will be Jan. 1. Chatlani is leaving her position as a science and technology reporter for KPBS in San Diego. 


Colorado Public Radio hired Gillian Coldsnow as PD for CPR News. Her first day with the organization will be Jan. 16. Coldsnow is currently PD for Northwest Public Broadcasting in Pullman, Wash. She joined the station in 1993 and has also worked as a classical music announcer, operations manager, host, producer and assistant manager of programming and operations.

WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, N.C., hired Alan Thompson and Susan Castle as hosts for WUNC Music, its streaming music discovery station. Thompson, who is also known as DJ Who4thecru, also hosts music programming for jazz station WNCU in Durham, N.C. Castle is a host for KUTX in Austin, Texas. 


Rita Houston, PD of WFUV in New York City and host of the station’s The Whole Wide World music program, will step away from her roles “to tend to her health and spend time with her family,” according to a news release. Assistant PD Eric Gottlieb will step in as interim PD, while Delphine Blue will become host of The Whole Wide World in January. Blue first worked for WFUV from 2000–03 and rejoined the station last year. She has also had several DJ, producer and programming roles with WBAI in New York City and “Delphine has the heart and soul of a true DJ,” Houston said in a news release. “Her instincts make her the perfect host for The Whole Wide World, a show that has pushed radio’s traditional boundaries and been a home for fun segues and musical curveballs.” 

Konata Edwards was hired as a local producer of All Things Considered for WFAE in Charlotte, N.C. Edwards previously worked as a host for the Queen City Podcast Network. He was also a contributing writer to Uproxx, assistant producer for the Sell Or Die podcast and a production assistant for ESPN and WFNZ in Charlotte.



Anjuli Sastry, an audio producer for NPR’s It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, is among 12 media professionals selected by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University as 2021 Nieman Visiting Fellows. The fellows will work remotely over the coming year “using resources at Nieman and Harvard University to develop projects advancing racial justice or improving public health journalism in the U.S.,” according to a news release. Sastry “will craft a two-pronged approach to increase diversity within public radio,” according to the release. “On air, she will launch a new audio project to elevate voices of color across NPR radio shows, podcasts and visual platforms. Behind the scenes, Sastry will create a model for mentorship programs that foster retention and support employees of color throughout public radio.”


The National Federation of Community Broadcasters announced that board president Sonya Green will step down at the end of the year. Nathan Moore, GM of WTJU in Charlottesville, Va., was elected by membership for his second term and became board president. Darrah Blackwater, a recent law school graduate at the University of Arizona, will be vice president. Additional new board members include Amanda Eichstaedt, station manager and executive director for KWMR in Point Reyes Station, Calif.; Serah Mead, station manager for KZMU in Moab, Utah; and Kerry Semrad, GM for KZUM in Lincoln, Neb. Julia Kumari Drapkin, founder and CEO of the environmental nonprofit ISeeChange, will step down from the board at the end of the year.

Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly reported that Alan Thompson and Susan Castle will leave their current hosting roles to work for WUNC Music. Thompson continues hosting shows for WNCU and Castle with KUTX.

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