Klose, Haarsager will change roles when Schiller comes to NPR

Originally published in Current, Nov. 24, 2008
By Karen Everhart

Within hours after naming NYTimes.com General Manager Vivian Schiller NPR’s next president and c.e.o. (separate story), the NPR Board approved new roles for two of  her predecessors in the job, Kevin Klose and Dennis Haarsager. The board also promoted three vice presidents.
Klose, who was president and c.e.o. from 1998 to 2006 and president until his contract expired in September, was named president emeritus of NPR and president of the NPR Foundation, a role in which he will continue raising funds for the foundation and member stations.

“For years Kevin has played a key role in connecting donors through the foundation to NPR,” said Antoine van Agtmael, foundation chair. In 2006, Klose scaled back his workload, giving up the c.e.o. job to his deputy, Ken Stern, but retaining the presidency and focusing on donor relationships. Klose has the “time and enthusiasm to devote to NPR” as foundation president, van Agtmael said.

Board members also thanked Haarsager, who was appointed interim successor to Stern as c.e.o. in March and to Klose as president. Haarsager will continue to lead NPR as interim chief until Schiller takes office Jan. 5 and agreed to stay on as executive v.p. as she settles into the job.

“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dennis,” said NPR Chair Howard Stevenson, referring to Haarsager. “When we prevailed on him to take the job, he thought he’d get to spend a pleasant summer in Washington, D.C.—if there is such a thing,” Stevenson said. “It has been more challenging than he thought.”

The NPR Board “asked me to extend my time here for six months to assist with the transition,” Haarsager said during an interview. His role as executive v.p. “will be up to Vivian and me to figure out as she starts coming to work.”

“There’s a lot of work to do, and I’m not worried about sitting here twiddling my thumbs,” Haarsager said. 

Haarsager confirmed that he had been a candidate for the NPR presidency and acknowledged some disappointment about not getting the job. But he knew going in that “a bunch of really good people” would be considered as candidates.

The search committee “did a great job,” he said. Schiller has “exactly the kind of background a modern media company needs going forward.”  After Stern exited the c.e.o. job, Haarsager resigned as NPR Board chair and retired from his longtime position as head of Washington State University’s Northwest Public Radio and public TV station KWSU in Pullman, Wash., to lead NPR on an interim basis. 
“It’s been a privilege to provide whatever modicum of leadership I was able to provide, to work on things that are my priorities and to get the company’s management and staff feeling like they’re empowered to do their jobs,” Haarsager said. “I’ve been able to do that and build some trust between the board and the staff.”

When Haarsager accepted the job, he didn’t anticipate the budget problems that came up as the economic slowdown cut into NPR’s underwriting revenues, he said. “On balance, it’s been a wonderful experience—don’t think I’m complaining about it at all,” he added. “I had no idea that we’d be dealing with budget issues pretty much from the second month I got here through today.” 

Cancellation of the Bryant Park Project, NPR’s multiplatform experiment in creating content for young adults, was a “joyless” decision that came this summer, as he described it in his blog, Technology360. But other digital initiatives advanced under Haarsager—acquisition of the web services provider Public Interactive from Public Radio International and the launch of NPR’s Open API, or application program interface, a freely available key that lets bloggers and others redistribute NPR content on the Web and mash it into new forms. On Haarsager’s watch, NPR also introduced social networking on NPR.org and recruited Kinsey Wilson, former executive editor of USA Today and its web services, as its new digital media chief.

“It has been satisfying to see the rollout of programming innovations in the realm of digital media,” Haarsager said during the Nov. 12 board meeting. Over time, the introduction of the API will become the “largest source of new audience and sponsorship ... not just for NPR but for all of public radio,” he said.

The board also approved promotions of three NPR executives to senior vice presidents: Kathleen Jackson, v.p. of human resources, who joined NPR in 1996; Joyce Slocum, v.p. of legal affairs and general counsel since July 2008; and Ellen Weiss, news v.p. since April 2007. Weiss, who joined NPR in 1982, served as acting news v.p. for several months before her official appointment as NPR News chief last year.

The promotions are “accolades for the good work they’ve done this year,” Stevenson said of the three v.p.’s.

In addition, the board honored three station execs whose terms on the NPR Board ended this month: Tim Eby, radio station manager of WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, whose term on the board included a stint as chairman; Scott Hanley, g.m. of WDUQ in Pittsburgh, who chaired the board’s distribution committee during the difficult completion of the ContentDepot station interconnection; and Mark Vogelsang, president of Vermont Public Radio, who served on every standing committee of the board during his six-year tenure.  

The board also re-elected Stevenson as chair and Dave Edwards, g.m. of Milwaukee Public Radio, as vice chair. Both were voted into their board leadership roles in March after Haarsager became interim c.e.o. Stevenson is a professor and senior associate dean at the Harvard Business School and previously served as board vice chair and chair of the board’s finance committee; Edwards, a veteran station leader, co-chaired the search committee for the new NPR president.

Web page posted Nov. 25, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Current LLC

RELATED ARTICLE

Vivian Schiller "hit every point" on NPR's wish list for a c.e.o., November 2008.

LINKS

Haarsager's Technology 360 blog, including his report about stepping in as acting c.e.o. in March 2008.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports on Ken Stern, "forced out" as c.e.o. of the network.

Why is managing NPR so damned difficult? Former ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin begins to explain after Stern's ouster.

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