NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, left NYTimes.com to join public radio because she saw a void in local media that needed to be filled. In a Newsweek interview published this week as NPR.org is relaunched, she elaborated on her strategy to reposition public radio around not only its on-air home but also its digital and online platforms. With the challenges facing local media from big city dailies to local TV and radio news operations, communities risk a painful loss of critical information and sense of identity.
“The reason that I came to NPR and left other big national news organizations is because NPR has something those organizations don’t have,” Schiller told Newsweek. “In all of public radio, there are 8,000 people spread around the country. They are in every community. [They have a] physical presence and a presence in the hearts of minds of the audience in those communities.”
While NPR is under her watch, Schiller intends to give the local stations the home base, tools, resources and encouragement to do what they do best on the local level. As newspapers like the LA Times shut down their investigative journalism units, she wants to see more “accountability journalism” in local communities. Local public radio will be a leader on the air and in online and digital media if she has her way.
Schiller also commented on the need to change old media business models in times of economic and technological change. Her viewpoint is taking for-profit newspapers and recasting them as nonprofit institutions won’t solve anything. As she said, it still takes money to run a nonprofit media company.