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NPR Chief Executive Ousted

STEVEN INSKEEP, host:

Now, in this next story, the news is us, NPR. NPR's corporate board has forced out its chief executive after a little more than a year in the top job. Ken Stern joined this company in 1999; he served as chief operating officer for a while, was later promoted to CEO.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Just this week, Ken Stern announced a huge new headquarters scheduled to open in 2012. Stern is the lawyer and numbers cruncher who helped to stabilize NPR after years of rocky finances.

Jon Schwartz is the general manager of Wyoming Public Radio and is the former chairman of NPR's board of directors.

Mr. JON SCHWARTZ (General Manager, Wyoming Public Radio): During that time that Ken has been at NPR, in general the company has been very healthy and I think that the public has seen and responded to that.

FOLKENFLIK: And how. The audience for NPR programs has doubled to 26 million listeners a week. And the network has added shows in domestic and foreign bureaus and it's made a big push in digital ventures.

But that's aggravated a major tension. NPR member stations rely heavily on shows such as this one to generate donations. But if people can listen through Web sites or cell phones, why would they stay loyal?

Several public radio officials say Stern failed to convince local stations there's a role for them in the digital future. And they say he lacked the light touch and charismatic aura of predecessor, Kevin Klose.

Yesterday, Stern was told he was being cut loose. He declined to be interviewed. Board chairman Dennis Haarsager says the board is seeking a visionary of national stature.

Mr. DENNIS HAARSAGER (NPR Board Chairman): You know, we haven't done a full search for a CEO at NPR since 1998. So it's been 10 years. The world has changed enormously in that time and especially the media world.

FOLKENFLIK: Haarsager says he'll serve as NPR's interim CEO until a new one is picked.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.