Public radio builds its news operation

In hiring Marimow, NPR seeks to add depth to reporting

March 23, 2004|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

National Public Radio yesterday appointed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William K. Marimow to a new post as a managing editor who will oversee national news, the first concrete step taken to redefine the public broadcaster since it received a $200 million bequest last fall.

"We win a lot of prizes and earn a lot of praise" for NPR's stories, said Bruce Drake, NPR's vice president for news and information. "We're still not satisfied that we have done enough of the kind of reporting that sets the agenda, gets under the surface, that does investigating."

Drake said the experience of Marimow -- The Sun's former top editor -- would help guide the not-for-profit radio giant in those efforts. "Doing that kind of reporting is a matter of resources," Drake said yesterday. "But it's also a mindset."

As a reporter, Marimow led the Philadelphia Inquirer to two Pulitzers for revealing widespread police brutality in that city and subsequent abuses by the police's canine units. During more than a decade as an editor at The Sun, he helped to oversee coverage that led to three Pulitzers. Last year, The Sun received a Pulitzer for beat reporting and was also a finalist in two other categories.

Marimow, 56, was editor and senior vice president at The Sun from 2000 until Jan. 5 when he was dismissed by Publisher Denise E. Palmer. She noted the failure of their professional relationship to develop smoothly in making her decision.

In an interview yesterday, Marimow said he was excited for the new challenge in a new medium. "NPR, to me, is a national treasure," Marimow said. "As I talk to colleagues -- friends and others -- I find there's a great deal of ardor and passion about NPR."

Marimow will be overseeing a staff of more than 100 journalists at NPR, commanding its national coverage and taking responsibility for overseeing the weekend news programs, as well as journalistic training and new Internet initiatives. He joins Barbara Rehm, until now the sole NPR managing editor. She is to oversee foreign news and several news magazine and talk shows.

Steve Behrens, editor of Current, a publication that covers the public broadcasting industry, said there had been, in the past, internal concerns at NPR over the influence of former print journalists there. Kevin Klose, NPR's president and CEO, was once a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, while Drake had been a reporter and editor for the New York Daily News.

"They're seeing success as defined by the major newspapers they aspire to be compared to," Behrens said, adding that he did not believe that mandate clashed with the traditional radio reportage of NPR: "I don't know that they are such exclusive challenges."

Marimow's job takes effect in early May.

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