CHICAGO (May 19, 2020) – The Chicago Public Media Board of Directors announced it has named dynamic public media leader and innovator Andi McDaniel to serve as its president and CEO to lead WBEZ Chicago, NPR’s local news station, as well as urban music alternative station, Vocalo. Selected from among hundreds of qualified candidates from across the country, McDaniel will bring rich expertise, a track record of innovation, and a passion for local journalism and the future of digital media to Chicago Public Media.
As McDaniel joins the organization in her new role, she will lead Chicago Public Media’s evolution to become Chicago’s premier news organization and continue to establish WBEZ as a multiplatform source for news content and as a leader in robust community engagement.
“There has never been a more critical moment for public media and local journalism. I’m inspired by WBEZ’s creative and journalistic legacy and can’t wait to make it an even more essential part of the daily lives of Chicagoans,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel comes to Chicago Public Media from WAMU 88.5, Washington D.C.’s NPR station, where she has been chief content officer since 2015. In this role, McDaniel has helped lead a dramatic transformation of the station’s content, culture, revenue and operations. She has overseen the station’s national and local news and talk programming, podcasts, digital content, and new content initiatives.
“The board is unanimous in its belief that Andi is the right person to lead Chicago Public Media as we continue to deliver high-quality, in-depth journalism and innovative original programming,” said Bryan Traubert, chair of Chicago Public Media’s Board of Directors.
As WAMU’s chief content officer, McDaniel led the development of the NPR radio program 1A, which now airs on more than 375 stations and reaches 4 million listeners a week. Earlier this month, WAMU announced that WBEZ’s Jenn White will be the new host of 1A.
McDaniel also spearheaded WAMU’s acquisition of DCist, a locally focused digital news site that now garners nearly 2 million visits monthly and is supported by a unique digital membership program and robust sponsorship model. She also established WAMU’s podcast division.
Through a reimagining of WAMU’s on-air sound and programming, and expansion of WAMU’s local and regional journalism, McDaniel has helped grow the size of the station’s broadcast audience and shift the audience makeup to become dramatically younger and more diverse. Under her leadership, WAMU’s African American listenership has more than doubled, and its listenership 25-44 has grown by 13 percent. The station now frequently ranks as the #1 most listened-to news and information station in the Washington region, and has delivered the greatest amount of listening to NPR programming in all of public media since 2015.
McDaniel has cultivated significant major gifts and grants and served as a key leader as WAMU has redesigned its revenue and operations, nearly doubling in size from $25 million to $40 million. While at WAMU, she has built a culture that is highly diverse, collaborative and ambitious, helping the station become a magnet for top-level creative talent.
McDaniel is originally from the Chicagoland area, having grown up in Schaumburg, Ill., McDaniel is a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and is an award-winning journalist and storyteller. She received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, where she studied English and Spanish.
McDaniel will officially start as CEO of Chicago Public Media in September 2020. McDaniel is expecting her first baby this summer and will join the station following her maternity leave and move to Chicago.
Steve Edwards will continue to serve as interim CEO, a role he’s held since October 2019. Edwards will then resume his role as vice president and chief content officer for WBEZ. Additionally, Kassie Stephenson will remain as interim chief operating officer until McDaniel begins, at which time she will return to her role as chief marketing officer.
“The Chicago Public Media Board of Directors are grateful to Steve and Kassie for extending their leadership, especially in these most recent months during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Traubert.
“I couldn’t be more pleased by Andi’s selection as our next president and CEO,” said Edwards. “She’s the ideal person to lead our organization as we seek to create meaningful connections among younger, more diverse audiences across audio and digital platforms.
Traubert said a dedicated Search Committee of the Board of Directors started the process of looking for a permanent CEO in October 2019, and they engaged search firm Blinkhorn LLC to lead the search. This began following the announcement that Chicago Public Media’s previous CEO, Goli Sheikholeslami, was departing to lead New York Public Radio. Sheikholeslami’s legacy at Chicago Public Media includes several years of record growth, where the station made significant investments in local journalism to expand local news coverage, create additional news desks and hire respected reporters. The station also introduced notable podcasts like Making Obama, 16 Shots and Motive, and last year launched Reset, a two-hour live, local talk program during important midday listening hours.
In December 2019, WBEZ announced it had reached a major milestone in a multi-year $30 million fundraising campaign, securing $23 million or more than two-thirds of its projected campaign goal.
In April 2020, the station launched a reimagined WBEZ.org to be a daily digital news destination for Chicago news consumers to browse, read and listen to (both livestream and on demand) WBEZ’s best-in-class journalism.
In recent months, WBEZ has become an essential source of information on COVID-19 to its listeners and has covered the COVID-19 situation in Chicago for NPR stations across the U.S. or Chicago. In the most recent Chicago radio ratings published by Nielsen Audio (March 2020), WBEZ ranked 6th in market, top 10 across every daypart and for the first time WBEZ, was #1 among listeners 25-54 during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR news station, serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ’s award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. In addition to its local and national news programming, WBEZ Chicago is home to a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the “Making” series of Making Beyoncé, Making Obama and Making Oprah; an investigative podcast series, Motive; 16 Shots: A podcast about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald; Nerdette; and Sound Opinions. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial.
Download the WBEZ app, available in the App Store and Google Play or ask your smart speaker to “Play WBEZ.” Learn more about WBEZ Chicago and its award-winning programming and on-demand digital content at wbez.org or on Facebook or Twitter.