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WNYC Has A New Chief Content Officer

He's 34.

New York Public Radio has announced a new content chief: Andrew Golis, who joins the public radio institution from Vox Media, where he was the digital media company’s Vice President of Network Development and General Manager for its flagship website, Vox.com.

According to the corresponding press release, Golis will…

… lead all content efforts—from editorial strategy and program development to the continued integration of digital and radio—across WNYC News, WNYC Radio, and WNYC Studios. He will be responsible for setting a strategy and vision for how WNYC can more powerfully tell stories across platforms, positioning WNYC News as a model of how public radio newsrooms can help reinvigorate struggling local news ecosystems across the country. He will also be responsible for leading WNYC Studios, the organization’s podcasting and national program distribution arm, crafting and driving an editorial vision that continues to innovate on audio storytelling and amplify underrepresented voices.

Notably, Golis was the Vox Media executive responsible for setting up the partnership with Stitcher that would lead to the creation of Today, Explained, the company’s foray into the competitive daily news podcast space.

Golis fills the seat that was left vacant by Dean Cappello, the organization’s last content chief and right hand man to CEO Laura Walker, who was benched and eventually pushed out following a long period that saw WNYC embroiled in a scandal, triggered slightly over a year ago, that raised significant questions about its workplace culture.

Golis is also joining a company right before a massive moment of transformation at the top: shortly before Christmas, Laura Walker, who had served as WNYC’s leader since 1996, announced that she was leaving the organization to pursue opportunities including “a university position” and some sort of venture of her own. Her last day at the organization is said to be March 31.

For what it’s worth, I like this hire quite a bit. That New York Public Radio is bringing in an executive with considerable experience at the forefront of digital media — who, interestingly enough, feels decidedly of this generation — is an impressive move to make from an institution that resides in a public radio system not particularly known for dynamism. Plus, as friend of the newsletter Nick Andersen pointed out over Twitter, Golis is the kind of person who launches projects like This., a now-defunct one-link-a-day curatorial project that I thought was interesting and provocative in a bunch of different ways.

The dude is also pretty friggin’ young. If my sources are right, he’s 35. Holy shit.

Anyway, I managed to get a hold of the memo that Golis sent around WNYC announcing his arrival.

Here it is in full, for curiosity’s sake:

Colleagues,

I’m so inspired to get to join you. There’s so much to do.

When I think about the work we journalists do, two urgent opportunities to make our communities healthier, fairer, and more decent stand out.

The first is in digital audio. Millions of new people are developing deep relationships with podcasts each year, and the tens of millions of people who were already listening have made podcasts a foundational part of their daily media diet. Even more exciting: they’re putting great journalism — crafted storytelling, thoughtful conversation, revelatory reporting — at the center of these powerful habits.

Journalism’s second opportunity is to fill the civic and cultural void that’s been left by the collapse of local newspaper monopolies. We know that great journalism is essential to connecting us to our neighborhoods, to our city, and to people of all walks of life across the country. It’s those connections that make us the citizens and community we want to be.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

At WNYC, you’ve been leaders in both. WNYC shows have set the bar for podcasting since the medium’s beginning. You’ve taught so many of us how smart this work can be, and how beautiful it can be. And WNYC AM/FM and newsroom has shown communities in and around New York City more about themselves than almost any other organization. You’ve held up a mirror to injustices and inequalities, and have inspired action and change. And you’ve created a thoughtful, decent — and often joyful–shared conversation.

I couldn’t be more honored to join you to build on both of these (often overlapping) traditions.

I grew up inside one of these traditions. My dad has worked for the same Northern California newspaper since he was 21-years-old. Retired as editorial director, he still writes a column for the paper. It’s a small-town paper, but it’s won a Polk and two Pulitzers, including for its coverage of the catastrophic fires of 2017. I have memories of him running from the dinner table to update an editorial for the next morning’s newspaper, and being stopped in the grocery store by both neighbors and strangers to discuss the latest news. He tells stories about covering forest fires (don’t get so close that the planes dump the red fire retardant goo on your head), covering politicians (Governor Jerry Brown, both times), and covering artists (before Christo and Jeanne-Claude built The Gates in Central Park, they built The Running Fence in Sonoma County).

Which is all just to say this: I grew up watching what an idealistic and influential news organization can do for a community.

When I moved to New York City as a young adult, two things made me feel like a New Yorker. The first was my wife. She told stories about the gentrification of her childhood neighborhood (Long Island City), struggles with New York City schools, and teenage wanderings in Manhattan. And her parents told stories about their childhoods in Long Island City and Greenpoint, and the crime, poverty, addiction they survived because of the family, food, activism, and opportunity that also filled their life.

The second was WNYC: You told me stories of other neighborhoods, other families, and other challenges; and your shows helped me understand the politics and arcane power structures that shaped my commute, my rent check, and the shuttering of many of my favorite shops and restaurants.

I’ll be joining you later this month. When I do, I want to start by deeply understanding how you do what you do, how you help us all feel like New Yorkers.

I’ve had the honor of working for some of the most ambitious journalism organizations in the world: The Atlantic, FRONTLINE, Vox Media. In each place, I’ve been humbled by how much more I understand on Day 100 than Day 1. While you can see from the outside that an organization is doing great work, you can’t see how until you know the processes, the culture, and the people that make that possible. In the coming months, I hope you’ll teach me what is and isn’t working so that I can help amplify the former and fix the latter.

And to directly address something the organization has been working on over the last year: Helping to make WNYC a fair, respectful and safe place to work will be my highest priority. I’m new to the organization, and I walk through life with many unfair privileges — so I won’t pretend to fully understand the experiences of those who have faced implicit or explicit harassment or discrimination. But my door (and inbox) will always be open to those who wish to share their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. Making our organization fair and safe isn’t just essential to creating a workplace we all want to come to each day; it’s foundational to the kind of journalism we want to do. We cannot represent the public interest if we do not represent the public: in who assigns stories, who edits them, and who tells them.

I know this work is hard. I know many of you sometimes have to work long hours to cover an important story or hit a publishing deadline. I know we sometimes have to bear witness to injustice and catastrophe, ask uncomfortably tough questions of powerful people, and persuade our listeners and readers to stay connected to these stories when apathy might feel so much easier. I’m sure confronting internal ugliness this last year has been hard, and that ugliness was hard for the people subjected to it long before it was confronted.

But I also know that it’s worth it. The work you do is extraordinary, and makes the lives of millions of people better. The opportunities we have to build on that work as the world around us changes are thrilling.

I can’t wait to meet you all, and please don’t be shy about reaching out sooner or later.

Groovy.