Is “no one in public radio” qualified to head up NPR?

By Dru Sefton

According to pubradio consultant John Sutton, several sources close to the NPR Board say that “current and past CEO search committees have taken the position that no one in public radio is qualified to manage the external relationships NPR must forge to succeed in the digital age.”

“I hope that’s not that case,” he notes in a blog post on Radio Sutton.

This creates “an interesting dichotomy,” he writes. “NPR’s Board searches for leaders who want to build on public radio’s great success, but does not think the leaders who are very much responsible for creating that success are good enough for the job.”

He adds: “NPR’s recent CEO failures raise the legitimate possibility that a highly qualified station manager has a better chance of growing into the external CEO role than an external candidate has of growing into a successful public radio system leader.”

  • Jim Russell

    Glad you said this, John. The missing link in recent CEO hires seems to be that outsiders do not have the “mission DNA” that comes from intimate knowledge of, through involvement in, public radio. When do we get over looking for an outside Messiah?

    • Dwight

      It’s not about NPR. It is about board members from private enterprise not believing that someone who worked their life in a not-for-profit organization is capable of being a CEO of a corporation, even if it is a not-for-profit. I have watched that bias at work for over 45 years in many non-profit organizations.

  • Jim Lewis

    Well said, John.

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