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After months of searching
for a top executive to succeed Vivian Schiller
, NPR announced Sunday that Gary Knell would become the news organization's new president and CEO. Knell has been CEO of Sesame Workshop since 2000. The 57-year-old fills the spot vacated by Schiller, who tweeted Sunday
New @npr CEO Gary Knell is an experienced leader, a good man and a friend. Best shot to liberate pubradio from untenable reliance on fed $$
Schiller resigned as CEO in March
after the firing of Juan Williams
was mishandled under her leadership, and fundraiser Ron Schiller was captured on videotape commenting on conservatives and the Tea Party movement
. Ron Schiller's position remains open, as does Ellen Weiss's
, the newsroom vice president who resigned over the Williams firing
NPR's David Folkenflik reports Knell hopes to "calm the waters."
Knell joined Twitter Sunday. His first tweet
I’m thrilled to join NPR. This is media with a deeply held mission, compelling history and boundless future.
Knell told The New York Times' Brian Stelter he wants NPR to thrive where others have failed
"We have to figure out a game plan to make sure that 10 years from now, NPR is in a sustainable place to do the journalism and cultural content that it does, and that it does not find itself in the ash heap that so many newspapers have found themselves."
Knell believes his Sesame experience will help NPR do that, as he told Folkenflik:
"I've learned how to master our way through a very competitive world out there, and one in which we have not lost our way and our mission, nor our qualitative edge," Knell said in an interview Sunday evening.
Folkenflik, who says "at first blush, NPR might appear to be playing it safe by selecting a chief associated with Big Bird rather than the news business," notes Knell's political experience working with both Democrats and Republicans:
"I'm not naively walking into this," he said. "I think obviously, [NPR has] been caught somewhat in the political crosshairs in Washington. Some of that is undeserved, I think. And what I would really like to see is depoliticizing NPR a little bit, so that it's not caught in those crosshairs." ...
Knell said he would seek to increase funding for NPR's journalism from governmental, corporate and foundation sources. Otherwise, he said, he wants to get out of the way of its journalists, whom he called "amazingly fabulous."
"The point here is that it's not about liberal or conservative. It's about fairness," Knell said. "We've got to make the case that we're delivering a fair service — not only in the way we do our jobs but in the way we disseminate the news."
NPR has been accused of bias and had its funding threatened
in the last year.
Knell is taking a pay cut in his new job
. The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reports that Knell made $746,144 in 2009, with salary and additional compensation. His compensation at NPR will be "in line with" Schiller's, who made $575,000 in 2010.
Knell, a father of four, has a blog, "Gary's Blog: On the road with Big Bird's Boss
." He starts at NPR on December 1.