The NPR Board has selected tech executive Katherine Maher as its next president and CEO.
She will be tasked with steering the network towards greater stability as layoffs and larger market forces continue to unsettle media companies.
Maher, who starts her leadership term March 25, succeeds outgoing CEO John Lansing.
Since joining NPR in 2019, Lansing has led the organization through implementation of the NPR Network initiative and a strategic plan centered on diversifying audiences. His tenure also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, and he steered NPR through restructurings that included a 10% staff reduction, podcast cuts and the combining of the news and programming divisions.
“We are delighted to welcome Katherine Maher to lead NPR into its next chapter,” NPR Board Chair Jennifer Ferro said in the news release. “The board searched for a leader with the ability to reach audiences on new and existing platforms and leverage the network of local organizations that are providing high quality, relevant content to 99% of the country. Katherine is an extraordinary leader who has tackled the issues around reliable and accessible information for all.”
Maher is currently CEO of Web Summit, an annual technology conference held in Lisbon, Portugal. She joined Web Summit in October when the organization was in a crisis. Her predecessor Paddy Cosgrave was forced to resign after he publicly criticized Israel following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks. TechCrunch notes that Cosgrave’s remarks prompted major tech companies and high-profile speakers to cancel their participation in the event.
Earlier in her career, Maher was CEO for the Wikimedia Foundation from 2016–2021, a role she moved into after working as the organization’s chief communications officer. The NPR news release credited Maher with doubling the foundation’s fundraising and raising Wikimedia’s first endowment to support the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
In an interview with NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik ahead of the public announcement, Maher said there is “strong alignment” between NPR and Wikimedia as two organizations that focus on having “integrity and autonomy.”
Maher also has extensive experience serving on boards, including her work as board chair for the messaging service Signal. She has also served on the Foreign Affairs Policy Board in the U.S. Department of State; System, Inc.; and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Maher has been a young global leader for the World Economic Forum and a senior fellow for the Atlantic Council.
“NPR has been a lifelong part of my soundscape, expanding my worldview and stoking my curiosity,” Maher said in NPR’s news release. “NPR inspired in me an appreciation for the power of civic institutions and a commitment to free inquiry and information. As NPR’s mission of informing America continues to grow more essential; so too does our need to reinvent and reimagine ourselves in step with our ever-changing world.
“I am tremendously excited to take on this challenge and join NPR as a steward of our mission and founding values of news, curiosity, and culture for a diverse, robust public trust,” she added.