Nancy Barnes, SVP of news, to leave NPR

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Barnes (Photo: Wanyu Zhang/NPR)

Nancy Barnes, NPR’s SVP of news and editorial director since 2018, will leave the organization to “pursue other journalistic endeavors,” she told staff in an email Friday.

In the email, Barnes wrote that she will remain in her job until at least the end of November in order to “ease the transition and finish important work that is underway.” 

Hours before Barnes announced her decision to leave, NPR CEO John Lansing informed staff about his plan to hire a chief content officer. The new CCO will supervise the SVP of news and SVP of Programming Anya Grundmann. Both executives now report to Lansing.

NPR hasn’t employed a CCO since 2014, when Kinsey Wilson held the job. When then-CEO Jarl Mohn restructured the executive ranks, he eliminated Wilson’s position and realigned the SVP of news job as a direct report to the CEO.

NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik first reported on Barnes’ resignation and Lansing’s move to hire a CCO. 

Barnes explained her decision in her note to staff. “As many of you have noted to me and others, there is increasingly overlap between the news and programming divisions,” she wrote. “John has decided that going forward, he wants a Chief Content Officer across all of content. This is something he has been considering for several months and I fully support his decision.”

“I also have decided that now is the right time for me to pursue some other opportunities, which I will share when the time is right,” Barnes wrote.

Barnes said that decision was “bittersweet” and that she considers NPR a “national gem.”

“The work that we do is critically important, now more than ever,” Barnes wrote. “We serve the public at a time when journalism is under attack and Americans cannot always agree on a shared set of facts. … We need to stand strong as a trusted international journalism organization. I ask all of you to lend your support to John, me and the entire news leadership team as we work through this transition.”

In his email responding to Barnes’ announcement, Lansing said she had “deepened NPR’s commitment to essential public service journalism. Among her many accomplishments, Nancy strengthened our newsroom with the creation of a Climate Desk, a disinformation team, and a breaking news investigations team.” 

“Nancy has been a strong partner to me in navigating the past several years and I have benefited enormously from her experience and expertise,” Lansing wrote. NPR will conduct a national search for her successor and encourage both internal and external candidates.  

In his earlier email about the new CCO position, Lansing said that NPR is “facing unprecedented competitive pressures from commercial media” to meet its goals of reaching a younger, more diverse audience on various platforms. 

In overseeing the news and programming the divisions, the CCO will seek to “find opportunity in those strategic challenges and support the continued excellence of our teams,” Lansing said. 

“The CCO will be essential to how we accomplish the ambitious goals of the NPR Network, amplifying our collective power to deliver trusted, world-class journalism, music, and culture that inform, empower and engage audiences that reflect America,” he added. 

NPR Chief People Officer Selyn Hong and the search firm Russell Reynolds Associates will lead the CCO search. 

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