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Andi McDaniel

Andi McDaniel, who served as chief content officer at WAMU, had been named the top executive at Chicago Public Media. On Friday, she withdrew her acceptance, the board of CPM announced.

Jeffrey Watts

Incoming Chicago Public Media CEO Withdraws From The Job

The incoming president and CEO of Chicago Public Media has withdrawn her acceptance of the position, according to a notice sent to staff Friday by the organization’s board chairman.

Andi McDaniel, formerly the chief content officer of public radio station WAMU in Washington, D.C., accepted the position to lead the parent organization of WBEZ and Vocalo in May.

After news reports raised questions about how management handled misconduct allegations of a former WAMU reporter, Chicago Public Media’s board initiated a review of the circumstances as it related to their hiring of McDaniel.

More than a month after that review began, McDaniel announced her withdrawal as Chicago Public Media’s new president and CEO.

“Chicago Public Media and Andi made the decision together, with deep commitment to serving the best interests of the staff and WBEZ’s current and future audiences,” CPM board chairman Bryan Traubert wrote in a staff memo Friday. “Among other considerations, the decision follows deeper research into the recent turmoil at Andi’s prior employer, WAMU, and a review led by the Search Committee of the Chicago Public Media Board of Directors.

“Andi is a thoughtful person of deep integrity, and believes that all good leaders take responsibility when things go awry. In order to respond appropriately to the dramatic shifts in our nation’s climate since her hire, Chicago Public Media will reconvene to take a fresh look at the search process overall and then embark on a renewed effort to hire a new CEO.”

In a meeting with Chicago Public Media staff Friday afternoon, Traubert said the search for another CEO search would likely not begin until 2021 to give the board time to establish a new hiring process and to consider how to conduct a new search in the middle of a pandemic.

While he declined to talk about what the board review found related to McDaniel’s work at WAMU or the hiring process, citing a confidentiality agreement, Traubert said the board took responsibility for not fulfilling its responsibility in hiring a new leader for the organization.

“Believe me, we’re taking a hard look at how we can be successful and this whole team and staff that works so hard on this important mission deserves nothing less and we understand we didn’t get it done,” Traubert said.

Traubert said interim CEO Steve Edwards and interim Chief Operations Officer Kassie Stephenson would continue to remain at the helm while the board reviews its search process.

Facing declining revenue attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago Public Media laid off 12 employees and ended production of Sound Opinions, which continues to be published independent of CPM.

WAMU’s general manager, J.J. Yore, announced his resignation last month.

While McDaniel accepted the position as Chicago Public Media CEO in May, she took maternity leave over the summer and was scheduled to begin work on September 28.

McDaniel could not be immediately reached for comment. But on Friday, McDaniel posted on Facebook that she was disappointed not to be joining CPM at the end of September, and defended her leadership at WAMU.

“I did not, and never would, keep someone around who had endangered my staff because that person was ‘good’ at his or her job,” McDaniel wrote on her Facebook page Friday, an apparent reference to allegations that management at WAMU allowed a reporter to stay on staff despite allegations because of his talent. “I have always done literally everything I can to make the workplaces I have led ‘jerk-free.’ WAMU was no exception — but in some cases, that was impossibly hard.”

She also wrote that “good leaders take responsibility for” the culture of their organizations.

“There is no flawless leader who will solve this for us,” she wrote of the issues facing media organizations to make them “more equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist.”

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.

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