NPR’s second-highest-ranking news executive, executive editor Dick Meyer, said he is leaving the Washington-based organization to oversee the BBC’s American news operations.
Meyer, 53, is the second top news executive to leave NPR this year, following the departure of his immediate boss, Ellen Weiss, in January in the wake of controversy over her handling of the firing of NPR commentator Juan Williams last year. Weiss’s job was taken over on an interim basis by Meyer’s boss, Margaret Low Smith.
Meyer’s departure comes on the eve of the arrival of a new NPR chief executive, Gary Knell. He was named last month to replace Vivian Schiller, who resigned in March after a conservative activist secretly recorded a lunch meeting in which NPR’s chief fundraiser made disparaging remarks about Republicans.
Meyer played down those episodes as a factor in his departure, saying the BBC’s offer was too good to pass up. “I couldn’t ever think of saying no to an opportunity like this,” he said in an interview. “The BBC is the world’s dominant news organization. It has the same news values as NPR and a global footprint. . . . It might be the only news organization I would leave NPR for.”
He will lead the BBC’s U.S. newscast, “BBC World News America,” and its U.S.-oriented Web site, BBC.com. The newscast was formerly part of the BBC’s domestic cable channel, BBC America, but it is now carried on public TV stations.
The BBC also said Meyer will advise on strategy and production for its 24-hour news channel, BBC World News, and its World Service radio programming, which is heard on public radio stations in the United States.
Before joining NPR in 2008, Meyer spent 23 years at CBS, 14 of them as a producer of “The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” and later as editorial director of CBSNews.com.
Meyer initially joined NPR to supervise its Web operations. Under his tenure, NPR’s digital operations grew quickly; NPR.org now ranks among the most popular news sites in the United States.
Meyer said the BBC — Britain’s venerable public broadcaster — sees an opportunity to expand in the United States, especially when domestic commercial newsgathering is undergoing “severe degradation” because of competitive and economic pressures.
Meyer, who will be based in Washington, will start his new job in February.
In a statement, BBC Newsroom head Mary Hockaday said of Meyer, “His considerable multiplatform experience and understanding of the North American news media landscape will help us build on our success so far and further strengthen the profile and presence of BBC News for American TV, digital and radio audiences.”