After The Atlantic announced today it was hiring Margaret Low Smith, the senior vice president for news at NPR, her email inbox was inundated with messages.
It was a “slight out-of-body experience,” said Low, who will head up The Atlantic’s live events division.
The new job might seem like a big change for Smith, who oversees the day-to-day operations of NPR’s news division — but the two jobs do have one strong similarity, she said.
Both radio and live events feature performances that capture the audience’s attention and entice them to come back for more, Low said. What makes NPR great, she added, is the organization’s ability to captivate its audience — an attribute she hopes to bring to The Atlantic’s events division.
“Along with the smart, there has to be an amount of heart and art that makes people sit up and listen,” she said.
Smith isn’t making any announcements about how she will steer The Atlantic’s 30-person live events team yet. Before she announces a direction, she plans to do a “deep dive” assessment of the team’s current offerings.
Smith starts her new gig in September, so she has a few months to work at the organization that has gotten her “up in the morning for more than 30 years.” She says she could have stayed at NPR, but that the opportunity to work in a new role at The Atlantic was too good to pass up.
“It will ache to walk out the door, but there’s nothing better than leaving a place when you still love it and it loves you back,” she said.