Andi McDaniel, a public media executive with a record of expanding local journalism and audience, will join Chicago Public Media this fall as its new CEO, leading WBEZ, Vocalo and the podcast unit.
McDaniel, 39, has served as chief content officer at WAMU, the NPR-member station in Washington, D.C. The CPM board of directors unanimously voted her in on Tuesday and McDaniel starts at the end of September, following her maternity leave.
While at WAMU, McDaniel led the development of the NPR show 1A, which WBEZ’s Jenn White will take over in July. McDaniel expanded the audience at WAMU, which now frequently ranks as the most listened to news station in the D.C. area. Revenue also grew under her leadership from $25 million to $40 million. And she established a new podcast division.
A Schaumburg native, McDaniel said listening to This American Life in college drew her into public radio. She said coming back to the area she grew up in, and leading a station she considers iconic in the public radio sphere, was irresistible.
“It’s a station that is innovating and setting a new bar and has an incredibly strong foundation that I can build on,” said McDaniel, a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, where she studied English and Spanish.
McDaniel replaces Goli Sheikholeslami, who left CPM last year to run WNYC in New York City.
“The board is unanimous in its belief that Andi is the right person to lead Chicago Public Media as we continue to deliver high-quality, in-depth journalism and innovative original programming,” said Bryan Traubert, CPM board chair.
Since October 2019, Steve Edwards has been CPM’s interim CEO. He will resume his role as vice president and chief content officer.
“I couldn’t be more pleased by Andi’s selection as our next president and CEO,” Edwards said. “She’s the ideal person to lead our organization as we seek to create meaningful connections among younger, more diverse audiences across audio and digital platforms.
McDaniel said her approach coming in as CEO is to learn CPM, show empathy and patience.
“What we do as public media that is most essential is help people understand what’s going on in the world and help them understand each other,” McDaniel said. “Even as we face difficult financial challenges that force difficult choices, it’s also the case that demand for what we do is surging right now and that’s an incredible opportunity.
“I will be thinking about audience — both growing audience, especially digitally — and also making audience more reflective of the demographics of the region,” she said.
At WAMU, African American listenership more than doubled under McDaniel, and its listenership among 25 to 44 year olds grew by 13%. And the station’s staff also became more diverse.
McDaniel said the fundamentals at CPM are aligned with her values: creative storytelling, local journalism and connection.
“Public media at its very best tells stories that reflect the place and have a richness, a texture and sound you don’t get in the commercial space,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel starts her new role in Chicago at a time when the city and nation are in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, but also at a time when WBEZ’s ratings are for the first time in the top 10 across every daypart. In April, the company launched the new wbez.org website.
“I’m up for the adventure,” McDaniel said, “between this and what it’s going to be like to have a kid.”