KALW hires James Kass as executive director

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James Kass, a nonprofit leader and strategic consultant to Bay Area arts organizations, has taken over as executive director of KALW in San Francisco, the public radio station announced Monday.


Kass succeeds Tina Pamintuan, who left in 2021 to lead St. Louis Public Radio. Ben Trefny, previously the station’s news director, has served as interim executive director. He will stay on at KALW in a leadership role to be announced. 

Kass is the founding executive director of the San Francisco nonprofit Youth Speaks, which focuses on spoken word arts education. He calls himself a “longtime fan” of KALW. 

“I was drawn to his opportunity because I deeply believe public media must play a role in helping a place define itself,” Kass said in a press release announcing his appointment. 

Public media’s role includes building “a trusted and welcoming cultural hub for the many of us who call the Bay Area home,” Kass said. “I am excited to extend the great work KALW has already done on this front.” 

In his work as a consultant and strategic advisor since 2017, Kass has helped build national programs for the Redford Center, a San Francisco nonprofit focused on environmental filmmaking, and the Apollo Theater in New York City. He also serves as a board member at LitQuake and the City Lights Foundation.

“James Kass has a way of investing the ideal of ‘community’ with authenticity and integrity and inviting everyone in,” said Laura Saponara, KALW Public Media board chair, in the release. “His deep love of the Bay Area and his extraordinary track record in growing organizations and nurturing talent make for a divine fit with KALW.”

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