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Michael Oreskes says that he admires NPR's reportorial
muscle, and that the network's greatest strength could be found in its
ability to tell stories that listeners find compelling, accessible and
NPR has named Michael Oreskes, a top Associated Press executive and former New York Times editor who has led newsrooms in such global centers as New York, Washington and Paris, to run its news division.
Oreskes will be the network's senior vice president for news and
editorial director, a slightly refashioned title. Oreskes is currently
vice president and senior managing editor at The Associated Press, where
he oversees the giant international newswire's daily report.
an interview, Oreskes described NPR as one of a handful of news outlets
that have proved themselves to be indispensable to the nation, and
therefore must thrive despite financial challenges during rapid
"We're living through just this
remarkable moment, where so much is being turned on its head," Oreskes,
60, said in an interview. "As journalists, I think we have ... both an
opportunity and responsibility to help guide the really best
journalistic institutions through this disruption."
other journalists who have known Oreskes for years characterized him as a
sharp and tough executive. They noted that running a newsroom whose
traditional strength is in broadcast and audio will be a significant
departure for him. Yet Oreskes, in their characterization, combines
old-fashioned news judgment and appetites with a willingness to demand
significant change from his staffs.
Former Senior Vice
President for News Margaret Low Smith departed last summer, just weeks
into the tenure of Jarl Mohn, the newly appointed CEO. Mohn said he
selected Oreskes after a lengthy process, and that he intended the
appointment to reflect the central role that news coverage should play
in defining NPR's identity.
"A number of the things we have
done, I'm hoping, are pointing in the direction of us doubling down on
journalism," Mohn said. "It is going to be the underpinning and the
foundation of everything we do."
Oreskes joined the AP in 2008. Previously, he had served as executive editor of The International Herald Tribune, owned by the New York Times Co. and based in Paris, and as the Times' Washington bureau chief. Oreskes had also held a variety of other editing and reporting roles at the Times.
During one stretch, he helped to oversee the Times'
digital content and partnerships for television, and the ensuing TV
coverage won three news Emmys. He got his start as a reporter at the New York Daily News and joined the Times in 1981.
assessing NPR, Oreskes said he admired its reportorial muscle and that
the network's greatest strength could be found in its ability to tell
stories that listeners find compelling, accessible and absorbing.
scarcest resource in journalism right now is attention span," Oreskes
said. "We used to live in a world of journalism governed by the laws of
physics. Time and space were our key constraints: space in a newspaper,
time on the air."
But that has changed, he said. "The really
controlling force in the world right now [is] how long you can keep your
audience, your followers, consuming the journalism you're creating.
They have just so many other places to go, so many things pulling on
them and so many demands on their time that our goal is to create
journalism that holds them. "And I don't think anybody in journalism right now does that better than NPR." NPR
executes award-winning journalism both on the air and online; its
journalists have repeatedly been given top marks by the jurors for the
duPont Awards and the Peabody Awards, the most respected recognitions in
broadcast news. Similarly, the network has received widespread praise
for its podcasts and original multiplatform efforts, such as Planet Money on the economy, Code Switch on race and identity, and Invisibilia about the secrets of human behavior.
ousted former Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson, who oversaw NPR's
news and digital offerings. He was credited with championing many new
digital initiatives, including the expansion of NPR Music and the NPR
One mobile app, which provides a curated feed of NPR stories that can be
personalized for listeners. Mohn says that he and new Chief Operating
Officer Loren Mayor are guiding the network's strategy.
emerged in the black financially this year after six years of failing
to do so. That transformation required several rounds of deep budget
cuts, and it was accompanied by a seemingly ever-changing procession of
CEOs and other executives.
In addition, audiences for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, the network's two radio mainstays, have suffered notable drops. Mohn's Spark drive, which aims to boost audiences for Morning Edition through intensive promotional efforts, has started to show success in some key markets. He is planning the same focus for All Things Considered.
says it may now be time to make efforts to sharpen the content of the
shows, too. "There are some remarkable opportunities," Mohn said,
"because of what has happened to many, many news organizations." He said
NPR could fill a void created by the steep drop in resources for
newspapers because of declining newspaper subscriptions, the
sensationalism of network news and the argumentative nature of cable
"We think that makes what we do in public radio and what we do at NPR even more important," Mohn said.
Since last summer, former All Things Considered
Executive Producer Christopher Turpin has served as NPR's chief news
executive. NPR said Turpin has accepted a role as Oreskes' deputy in a
new position, vice president for news.
Oreskes starts in late April and will once again move to Washington, D.C.