After Nationwide Search, NHPR Selects Former WNYC Exec as New CEO

Sep 16, 2019

Jim Schachter, former vice president for news at WNYC, will serve as NHPR's next CEO.
Credit Courtesy of WNYC

Jim Schachter will take over as CEO of New Hampshire Public Radio, the station announced Monday, succeeding former chief executive Betsy Gardella, who resigned abruptly last October.

Schachter previously held the top news executive position at WNYC, the country’s largest public media station. In his role there, he oversaw programs including On the Media, The Brian Lehrer Show and Radio Rookies. Before joining WNYC, Schachter spent nearly 17 years at the New York Times, where he held the position of associate managing editor. 

“I’m really proud of NHPR for being able to attract a candidate of this caliber,” said NHPR Board of Trustees Chair Peter Burger in an interview. “It speaks incredibly well of the station...we are doing a lot right.”

Schachter’s hire comes after a months-long nationwide search led by an executive recruiting firm. Three finalists were brought in for interviews this summer, each feted with hors d'oeuvres and wine during an after-hours event in the station’s Studio D, according to employees who were invited to attend.

Burger declined to say how much the station spent on the search firm, or what Schachter will earn, though he said it was “roughly on par” with Gardella, who was paid more than $276,000 in her final year at the station, plus $32,717 in other compensation, according to publicly available tax records. 

In an interview Monday, Schachter said he was drawn to the station, in part, because it “is a place that has deep, deep connections to its community. I think people understand that the journalists and the people of NHPR have the interest of the community at heart when they are doing that work.”

Schachter and Burger both identified fundraising as an immediate challenge for the new CEO, though the Board stresses that the organization is in good financial health. While Schachter has spent the majority of his career in newsrooms, he said that at both WNYC and the Times, he was involved in grant writing and in crafting appeals to potential donors.

“For somebody who has been a journalist his whole life, I’ve toiled quite a bit in the vineyards of revenue development,” he said.

Mark Kaplan, who previously served on NHPR’s Board and as CEO of Alpha Loft, has been the station’s interim Executive Director since Gardella’s departure.

Her exit last fall came after what the Board called “serious management, human resources and communication issues” were identified by investigators following complaints from employees.

The Board, however, denied that her departure was linked to the results of the investigation. Station leadership declined to release a copy of the investigation, but confirmed there was no evidence of illegal activities, financial mismanagement or sexual harassment by Gardella.

Earlier this summer, the station’s board renamed a wing of the radio station the “Betsy Gardella Center for Journalism,” a commemoration some cheered, but others found distasteful, according to employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

NEW CEO, NEW CHALLENGES

Schachter will oversee a non-profit media outlet with approximately 70 employees and annual revenues of roughly $8 million. NHPR earned national recognition during Gardella’s 13-year run at the station, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards for overall excellence. Along with long-running public affairs show The Exchange, the station also produces nationally-recognized podcasts, including Outside/In, Bear Brook and Civics 101.

Schachter left WNYC in July, telling colleagues in a social media post at the time that he wanted “to try something completely different in the next phase of my career.” 

New York Public Radio, which owns WNYC, has seen a wave of turnover after allegations emerged in December 2017 that top talent at the station engaged in sexual harassment and bullying. 

John Hockenberry, host of the The Takeaway, was taken off the air, and less than a month later, long-tenured station hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz were also dismissed for inappropriate behavior, according to reports.

While the two top executives at New York Public Radio--President Laura Walker and Chief Content Officer Dean Cappello--both subsequently exited the station, there were no publicly reported allegations made against Schachter for failing to take appropriate action in the wake of staff concerns.

According to Burger, NHPR’s Board Chair, the executive search firm retained by NHPR spoke with outside references about Schachter’s tenure at WNYC.

“We are completely confident he had nothing to do with [those issues],” said Burger. “He had a very principled position with respect to those types of behaviors in the organization.” 

Schachter describes taking immediate action when employees approached him with concerns about the behavior of colleagues.

“I set in motion a process that led to some colleagues who should no longer be working there, in fact, departing,” said Schachter. 

“If you don’t create an atmosphere where people can come forward and say there’s a problem, then you are just part of perpetuating the problem.”

Schachter will formally begin at NHPR in mid-October.

NOTE: NHPR Managing Editor Cori Princell edited this story. No other NHPR staff or leadership had oversight or reviewed the story before publication.