Nico Leone, from KDHX in St. Louis, has been named the new General Manager of KCUR. He will take over for KCUR's longtime general manager Patricia Cahill on August 1.
“I am really excited to get the opportunity to work with the people at this remarkable station,” Leone said. “KCUR is doing great journalism, including some very innovative work with Harvest Public Media. It’s a very healthy station with a sizeable audience and a strong financial position. There’s a lot here for KCUR’s people, and the people of Kansas City, to be proud of.”
At KDHX, a not-for-profit community station, Leone has been co-executive director along with Beverly Hacker in a unique joint leadership structure. He oversees the public-facing operations of KDHX, managing programming, development, marketing, and community outreach. During his time at KDHX, he has led the station through several major initiatives funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including the Station Renewal Project and Leadership for Philanthropy; and launched the station's first capital campaign to fund a new home in the heart of the city’s arts and cultural district.
Sarah Morris, assistant vice chancellor for university communications, said the choice of Leone for the post was the result of an intensive national search process.
Livingston and Associates, a firm that specializes in public media executive searches, met with staff, donors, the station’s community advisory board and other volunteers to develop a list of attributes for a job description. The firm vetted all of the candidates and presented a slate to a ten-member search committee that included representatives from the staff, the community advisory board, the NPR board, donors and volunteers.
David Warm, executive director of the Mid-America Regional Council and member of the KCUR community advisory board, served as chair of the search committee.
“The committee was impressed with Nico’s energy and vision, with his effectiveness as a manager, and with his ability to engage a broad range of community interests. He is a leader for these times who understands that public radio is not only an information source but a unique and important platform for building a healthy, connected community,” Warm said.
“Nico is exactly what we need to extend the excellence of KCUR into the future. He is dedicated to quality programming and news, community partnerships and innovative links to new media formats,” Warm said. “Patty Cahill is leaving some big shoes to fill, and Nico will come as close as anyone can to matching her legacy.”
In terms of his plans for the station’s future, Leone wants to focus on community engagement. “The media landscape is changing, and that gives us an opportunity to not just be a source of great journalism, but also to be a powerfully impactful community institution,” he said. “There are threads moving through this community, including a vibrant arts and culture renaissance, that KCUR is well positioned to tap into and benefit from. We’re going to do everything we can to engage with the community, within the boundaries of journalism.”
Frank Morris (no relation to Sarah), KCUR news director, said he was impressed with Leone’s talent and creativity. “Nico Leone is a bold, fresh and electrifying choice to lead KCUR into an era when public radio stations will have to become ever more visible and valuable local institutions in order to survive,” Frank Morris said. “He’s going to invigorate our stature in the community, as KCUR’s locally produced news and cultural offerings become ever more central to the station’s relevance and economic viability.”
Leone believes the foundation of community engagement is listening.
“I’m going to be doing a lot of listening, a lot of getting to know the community. I’m looking forward to hearing from people about how we can better serve the community,” Leone said. “In order to thrive within this new media landscape, public media has to be intensely engaged with the community.
“As this community’s standard bearer for public media, KCUR needs to be a participant, and in fact a leader, in the discussion about the future of Kansas City. Now is the time for the station to take that step.”
Listeners should not expect significant changes in programming.
“I’m not coming in to be the program director or the news director,” Leone said. “We have a strong staff with a lot of expertise, and I’m going to be depending on that. Coming from a different situation, what I hope to contribute is a different perspective. But a year from now, what listeners will be hearing will not be a dramatically different station.”
Leone will report to Sarah Morris.
“We knew that our next general manager needed four essential qualities to take the station forward: leadership, vision, proven fundraising skills and a passion for community engagement,” Sarah Morris said. “Nico not only has these attributes, but also a track record of success, particularly with capital campaigns and community engagement.
“Nico will bring strength to areas where we traditionally have not been strong,” Sarah Morris added. “He understands and respects our history of great journalism, and his fundraising and community engagement efforts will be built on that foundation.”