Those of us who blog (new media) in established media companies (old media) certainly noticed today when National Public Radio dipped into the digital world to name a new president. Might this be a significant moment in the changing media landscape? Yes. Maybe. She comes to the job from the New York Times, where she headed nytimes.com. She’s a new media person from the old media.
But it’s a minefield out there. Just ask the previous full-time president — Ken Stern — who, the Washington Post reported at the time, clashed with NPR’s Board of Directors over Sterns’ insistence that NPR invest in new media, while some station managers saw the Web as competition.
PaidContent.org calls the appointment today “a shocker.”
Here’s the press release from NPR:
Washington, D.C. – November 11, 2008 – The National Public Radio (“NPR”) Board of Directors announced today that it has named Vivian Schiller, 47, as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective January 5, 2009. Ms. Schiller joins NPR from The New York Times Company where she is Senior Vice President and General Manager of NYTimes.com. She succeeds Dennis L. Haarsager, who has served as interim CEO since March.
Ms. Schiller has more than 20 years of experience in the media industry. During her tenure at The New York Times, she led the day-to-day operations of NYTimes.com, the largest newspaper website on the Internet, overseeing product, technology, marketing, classifieds, strategic planning and business development. Before joining NYTimes.com, Ms. Schiller spent four years as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Discovery Times Channel, a joint venture of The New York Times and Discovery Communications. Under her leadership, Discovery Times Channel tripled its distribution while achieving critical acclaim for its award winning journalistic programming. Previously, Ms. Schiller served as Senior Vice President of CNN Productions, where she led CNN’s long-form programming efforts. Documentaries and series produced under her auspices earned multiple honors, including two Peabody, two DuPont and five Emmy awards. Ms. Schiller began her career as a simultaneous Russian interpreter in the former Soviet Union, which led her to documentary production work for Turner Broadcasting.
Howard Stevenson, Board Chairman, said, “Vivian is a talented and proven leader with superb skills and broad experience in the media industry. Her roots in the news business, as well as her inclusive management style and operational expertise make her an ideal fit for NPR. These are crucial assets for partnering with our member stations and generous donors who care about and support excellence. Vivian has generated quality programming and superior results at every step of her career, and we look forward to continuing the important work of extending NPR’s reach under her leadership.”
Stevenson continued, “On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Dennis Haarsager for his dedication and effective leadership as interim CEO. Dennis has been instrumental in guiding the continued success and strong performance of the company during a period of transition.”
Dave Edwards, Vice-Chair of the Board and Co-Chair of the Search Committee, said, “During a rigorous eight-month search process, the Board met with many highly qualified candidates, and we unanimously concluded that Vivian is the right leader for NPR at this time. As a visionary executive, she will work closely with independently operated member stations to maintain the relationship with an audience of over 26 million listeners throughout the United States. Vivian possesses the editorial judgment and sensibility to harness the intellectual firepower and diversity of public radio.”
Carol Cartwright, Board Member and Co-Chair of the Search Committee, said, “We are at an important phase in NPR’s development, especially as the media world continues to manage through profound changes. Vivian understands the importance of radio as the foundational strength of NPR, and has the right skills and strengths to successfully navigate the company through a multiplatform world where the traditional broadcast business and content businesses on the Internet are central to long-term success.”
Vivian Schiller said, “NPR is among the nation’s most vital and trusted news organizations, unique in its original programming and distinctive voice. I couldn’t be more honored and excited about the opportunity to join such an important institution and its many talented and dedicated people. I look forward to working with the stellar management team, station managers and associates across the country to build on NPR’s solid foundation and grow its audience base of listeners and users.”
In September, Schiller participated in an online chat on the New York Times’ site, in which she tackled this question of “competing” media platforms:
.. we do not believe that a robust Web site is bad for our newspaper. A chorus of doomsayers has heralded each new form of media in the last 100 years. But radio did not supplant newspapers; television did not supplant radio; and there’s scant evidence that the Internet is fast replacing any existing form of legacy media, including print. In fact, the Internet has allowed us to increase our audience exponentially.