Goli Sheikholeslami met with Chicago Public Media staff for the first time since being named the new CEO this week.
She’s held a number of leadership positions at other media organizations, including the Washington Post where she helped integrate the print and digital operations. But she moved on from the Post, in part, because she couldn’t set the strategy for the organization.
“That was something I could contribute to, but as CEO I think your role is really in taking a leadership position and really defining that strategy,” Sheikholeslami said.
The CPM leadership position will be one in a number of firsts for Sheikholeslami: First time being a CEO, first time living in Chicago, first time working in public media and her first time fundraising.
“My experience has been in traditional commercial news organizations where the primary business models have been advertising and subscription revenues,” she said.
But she said public media’s multiple funding streams, like membership and philanthropy, is one of the things that attracted her to CPM.
“Our role is to convince more and more people that there is true value and a resource that we can become to them in their daily lives and that they should have a relationship with the station,” she said.
CPM’s Board of Directors is looking to the future ambitiously. While Sheikholeslami doesn’t want to set goals for the organization yet, she supports the idea of expansion and looking to listeners for guidance.
“I think the first task is really defining what we want to do that is different from what we do today. Where are those opportunities for us to expand? Whether it’s the coverage, the types of shows we produce. That’s the first step,” she explained.
Sheikholeslami has a deep background in digital media and product development, and that’s something that will likely play a part in CPM’s future.
“Whether it’s applications or digital products that can live on mobile devices is going to be key in attracting that next generation of loyal listeners,” she said.
Chicago produced shows like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and This American Life are her radio favorites; programs that longtime CPM CEO Torey Malatia was instrumental in developing before he resigned last year.
Sheikholeslami said she has her own unique leadership style coming into this role. But she recognizes the creative work of her predecessor.
“Because his sort of deep programming expertise and he’s a great sort of creator of programming, that is the legacy. I think that I’m hoping to support that kind of creativity going forward,” she said.
That’s something she’ll keep in mind as she seeks to fill open leadership positions at CPM.
Sheikholeslami begins her new role on May 5.