NPR promotes Wilson to chief content officer, Arnold departs PRI, and more…

NPR President Gary Knell has restructured the news organization’s top ranks, elevating digital chief Kinsey Wilson to executive v.p. and chief content officer and appointing Margaret Low Smith senior v.p. of news, a job she took on an interim basis last year. When Wilson joined NPR as senior v.p. and general manager of digital media in 2008, the position was parallel to the senior news exec post then held by Ellen Weiss. Knell’s restructuring elevates Wilson in NPR’s organization chart to supervise all of NPR’s content areas — news, programming and digital media. “In Kinsey and Margaret, we have two journalists, strategists and leaders with a keen understanding of the craft that distinguishes NPR — and how we continue to innovate and evolve,” Knell said in a news release. The new structure allows for greater coordination of NPR’s news, digital and programming strategies, and a “more seamless integration” of its news operations, according to the release.

StateImpact pilot begins scrutiny of government in eight states

Pubcasters in three states have started airing reports and posting stories online as the first participants in StateImpact, a large-scale project spearheaded by NPR that could unite the member stations and the network for an unprecedented level of collaborative newsgathering. The objective: to strengthen coverage of state government in all 50 states in coming years. Visit stateimpact. and you’ll see a map of the United States with three states highlighted in green — Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Stations in these states have gone live with their own StateImpact sites, with links from the national site.

50 miles from epicenter

It was purely by chance that a team of veteran NPR journalists was working in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, on May 12 [2008] when the destructive force of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, its epicenter just 50 miles away, killed some 70,000 people and left millions homeless. “You never want to feel you’re lucky to be somewhere when a huge disaster strikes,” said Andrea Hsu, the All Things Considered producer who managed advance logistics for ATC’s first weeklong broadcast from a foreign country. Hsu was one of four NPR journalists in Chengdu when the earthquake struck, turning the tiny news operation she had set up in a Sheraton hotel into the only Western broadcast news source for coverage of the disaster. After a scouting trip in February, ATC chose Chengdu as its home base for a week of special broadcasts, May 19-23, intending to introduce listeners to a region of China rarely covered in Western media. The city was more ethnically diverse than most and boasted an interesting cultural history, and local officials seemed open-minded about granting access to NPR’s journalists, Hsu recalled.  Plus, the local food was really good.

Weiss makes v.p. with endorsement of NPR newsroom

Ellen Weiss, an award-winning producer and editor in NPR’s news division over 25 years, will become its leader, the network announced last week. She is the newsroom’s first homegrown journalist after three veeps who established their journalistic credentials elsewher

Weiss, who had been interim news v.p., moves up from her previous job as senior editor of the national desk to succeed Bill Marimow, who became editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Marimow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning print reporter, was credited with strengthening NPR’s investigative reporting during more than 2½ years at NPR, including eight months as top news executive. The announcement to the NPR News staff capped an exceptional week for Weiss, who was offered the promotion April 3 and learned the next day that she would share a Peabody Award. Weiss and two colleagues — correspondent Daniel Zwerdling and producer Anne Hawke — won a Peabody for December’s investigative report on the military’s treatment of soldiers returning from war with emotional wounds (story).