Joyce Slocum, NPR’s new interim CEO, has been described by past colleagues as “a great storyteller” and someone with “a tremendous sense of humor.”
Slocum, who has been general counsel and senior vice president of legal affairs at NPR since July 2008, assumed her new position today, following Vivian Schiller’s resignation.
A 2009 Super Lawyers profile of Slocum offers some insight into the kind of person and leader some co-workers say she is:
“Jack Dougherty, vice president for business affairs at PBS, has high praise for Slocum. ‘She fights tough but she fights fair,’ he says. ‘She has the presumption of being in a long-term relationship. She doesn’t feel that she has to go for every last nickel. She’s always looking for creative ways to make it work for both parties.’
“… ‘She has the unusual ability to see the whole field and where the fault lines are,’ Dougherty says. ‘She’ll push right up to them without pushing you over.’ “
Attorneys who have worked with Slocum have said she’s a “tough negotiator” and “collegial leader” who manages her staff like family.
While serving as general counsel at HIT Entertainment, Slocum played a critical role in bringing together HIT, Sesame Workshop, Comcast Cable and PBS to establish PBS Kids Sprout, a 24/7 pre-school children’s channel. Her 25-plus years in legal affairs at HIT and elsewhere led to her job at NPR — an organization that she has long supported.
“I had been an NPR fanatic for many, many years,” Slocum told Super Lawyers. Listening to “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” she said, helped her during discussions of world affairs. “Car Talk,” she said, helped when her car overheated in Hawaii.
When PBS CFO Barbara Landes suggested that she apply for NPR’s general counsel position, Slocum decided to give it a try, admitting: “It was a leap of faith to put in the application, but I couldn’t resist trying.”
After she got the job, she “knew it would be the perfect fit”:
” ‘There are people who are stunned that I would leave Texas for a job,” she says. ‘I tell them that the job at NPR is one of about three jobs in the world that I would have moved for. But, in truth, I can’t even think what the other two would be.’ “
As general counsel, Slocum oversees legal affairs for all NPR programming and regularly handles First Amendment issues with her team. Slocum is also NPR’s chief ethics officer and secretary to the NPR Board of Directors.
Dave Edwards, NPR Board Chairman, said during a press conference call Wednesday morning that Slocum’s work at NPR has made her well-equipped to serve as interim CEO. The board, he noted, has “absolute confidence” in her ability to lead the organization.
Slocum’s appointment was determined by a CEO succession plan adopted by the NPR Board in 2009.
Edwards didn’t indicate how long she would hold this position but said Tuesday that the Board is establishing an Executive Transition Committee that will help recruit and select the new CEO. It was also reported on Tuesday that Slocum has been a Democratic political contributor.
Slocum once said that what she likes most about her job at NPR is that “every moment is different. You never know what the next phone call is going to bring.”
Given the recent events at NPR and the changes in Slocum’s role, those words couldn’t be more true.