Torey Malatia, a visionary public radio programmer and controversial leader who transformed WBEZ 91.5 FM in his 20 years with parent company Chicago Public Media, resigned Friday as president and chief executive officer.
Sources said Malatia, 61, met with the board of directors of the nonprofit institution Friday morning to finalize details of his departure. A WBEZ staff meeting has been called for 1 p.m. Friday, at which the official announcement is expected to be made.
Although the news was unexpected, Malatia's relations with the board had become increasingly difficult in recent years, according to insiders. While a search for Malatia's successor is under way, Alison Scholly, chief operating officer of Chicago Public Media, is expected to serve as interim CEO.
A west suburban Oak Park native who designed and led the Beethoven Satellite Network at WFMT 98.7 FM, Malatia joined WBEZ as vice president of programming in 1993. He was promoted to president and general manager of the station in 1996.
Under his leadership, WBEZ eliminated jazz and other music from its format to focus entirely on news, talk and public affairs programming. He created the Peabody Award-winning public radio series "This American Life" with Ira Glass and was instrumental in developing "Wait, Wait. . . Don’t Tell Me!," a co-production with National Public Radio.
Among his most controversial initiatives was the launch of Vocalo, a radio station and web site designed to appeal to a younger audience.
HERE IS OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON MALATIA RESIGNATION
Torey Malatia Resigns as CEO and President of Chicago Public Media
20-year tenure enriches programming, advances journalistic excellence at public media institution
Chicago Public Media, Inc. and its longtime President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Torey Malatia, jointly announce that effective July 26, 2013, Malatia is resigning his post.
On behalf of Chicago Public Media, Steve Baird, Chair of the Board, says he wishes to recognize Malatia for his many contributions during his years of valued service: “Throughout his career with Chicago Public Media, Malatia provided visionary, provocative and inspiring leadership. Malatia innovated in the programming realm and acted as an effective advocate of the organization in Chicago and in public radio nationally.”
About his departure, Malatia issued this statement:
“It has been my honor to lead the transformation of what was a fine radio station (WBEZ 91.5-FM) into an internationally revered institution on the cutting edge of trans-platform in-depth journalism.
"For 20 years I've kept Chicago Public Media planning and acting ever forward. We've led artistic and digital change nationally and internationally with the nation's most loved podcasts and broadcasts. Our audiences locally, nationally, and internationally number in the millions weekly.
"In my years as Chicago Public Media’s CEO, we have shown how digital media married to broadcast technologies can provide a nexus for polycultural discussion and insight, that entertaining experiences crafted with underlying substance can enthrall multi-platform audiences, bringing Chicago Public Media both respect and solid fiscal health.
"Most importantly, in these years, we--all of the trustees and I with my staff--have built one of Chicago's most needed journalistic resources at a critical time. A time when a new generation of Chicagoans are grappling with the challenge of making a better city for all of us.
"For me, having been given the unforgettable privilege of working with this brilliant staff and supportive board, marshaling the next wave of public service journalism is more than a choice; it is a calling.
"Although realizing the next innovation project must come for me now by leading another institution, I have eternal thanks and deep admiration for those many wonderful trustees and staff who have passionately supported our stunning successes.”
Chicago Public Media’s Board of Directors is launching a nationwide search to fill the CEO position at the public media institution, which is home to WBEZ 91.5FM, Vocalo 89.5FM and a range of acclaimed local and national productions.
Chicago Public Media Chief Operating Officer (COO) Alison Scholly will lead the organization, overseeing programming and operations, until the CEO position has been permanently filled.