Audrey Cooper is leaving her post as editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Chronicle to fill the same role at WNYC in New York City. Her first day will be July 20, according to current.org.
At WNYC, Cooper will oversee local talk shows, including The Brian Lehrer Show and All of It. She will also oversee Gothamist, the online news publication acquired by the station in 2018.
WNYC created the editor-in-chief position after Jim Schachter, former VP of news, left last year to lead New Hampshire Public Radio.
In a memo to staff, Chief Content Officer Andrew Golis and CEO Goli Sheikholeslami said WNYC was looking for a leader “with a rare combination of skills and strengths—someone who understands the unique role public media plays on the media landscape, and who has the tenacity and commitment to address some of our most urgent internal needs head-on.”
Cooper, a younger editor in the industry, “transformed” the newspaper’s newsroom, Golis and Sheikholeslami wrote, “from one dominated by white men to one led by and predominantly made up of women, people of color, and/or people who identify as LGBTQ+.”
According to The NY Times, newsroom stafferes are not happy. Reporters and producers sought a person of color, someone who deeply understood New York and who had experience in public radio. So it was with great consternation that the staff greeted the news, delivered on June 11, when the rest of the world would hear it as well — and 45 minutes or so before they met their new boss on Zoom — that the editor in chief of WNYC was going to be a white woman who lived in California, grew up in Kansas and was not from the world of audio.
“We were blindsided,” Richard Yeh, a supervising senior producer, told me, “really befuddled by the fact that our leaders chose someone who didn’t meet any of our qualifications.”
Cooper, who is white, promised to make WNYC more diverse.
“You will always know where we are going and how you can help us get there. So it seems fair to tell you that I am aware that I am joining at a time when WNYC does not have enough black and brown people in the newsroom. Changing this is my first priority,” she said. “I will put people of color in positions to decide what we cover, and I will make sure more people of color are telling those stories. This work needs to happen as quickly as possible — a diverse newsroom is a journalistic and moral necessity.”
Cooper told staff in the memo that she owes her interest in journalism to the night she walked into the newsroom at WBUR in Boston. She was a student at Boston University and wanted to volunteer for the station.