The Board of Governors of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) met on September 11, 2019, at the agency’s Washington, D.C. headquarters to review key programming initiatives and distribution strategies. Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein called for a moment of silence in tribute to the lives forever lost and changed on September 11, 2001, and the sacrifices made by the men and women serving the country since then.
The Board also bid farewell to Chief Executive Officer and Director John F. Lansing, who will depart the agency at the end of September to take over as CEO of National Public Radio (NPR).
In his last report to the Board, CEO Lansing provided an overview of recent successes, initiatives, and challenges the USAGM networks have faced in recent months. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Jamie Fly gave an overview of Current Time’s unmatched coverage of protests in Moscow but also detailed some of the harassment faced by RFE/RL journalists in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and elsewhere.
Bay Fang, Radio Free Asia (RFA)’s Executive Editor, provided a glimpse into a three-part Mandarin-language series on the Hong Kong protests. For many audiences in mainland China, this series is the only source of accurate information about the history of Hong Kong and the objectives of the protestors.
VOA Director Amanda Bennett presented a unique and powerful documentary series, with perspectives from the U.S. and from Africa, marking the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in the United States. In conjunction with the series, VOA hosted a live and internationally-broadcast town hall in partnership with Norfolk State University on August 22nd.
CEO Lansing announced the promotion of Nasserie Carew as USAGM’s first Chief Global Communications Officer for the agency. In this new role, Ms. Carew will take the lead in working with the five networks to coordinate external communications on issues affecting both the networks and the agency as a whole. The CEO also introduced USAGM’s new Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Director of Information Technology, James “J.R.” Reeves, who manages all IT policy and day-to-day IT operations for the Agency.
As the meeting was the final of CEO Lansing’s tenure, the Board offered heartfelt thanks for his bold vision and transformational leadership. Chairman Weinstein noted that CEO Lansing “joined at a pivotal time in the history of U.S. international media, and he has provided the vision and collaborative spirit needed to drive growth and innovation during some of the most trying times for global press freedom.”
“You have been a brilliant and inspirational leader, and you have brought in an ‘A-team,’” said Governor Ambassador Ryan Crocker. “It is a vastly different organization, and vastly better today, than when I first sat at this table six years ago. As much as we will miss you, we will continue to benefit from all that you’ve done.” “It was clear from the beginning,” said Governor Kempner, “that you had a great vision—not just for this organization, but also a vision for how to get the best out of people.”
“The first CEO is a very tough job, and we all agree you could not have done a better job as the first CEO of this agency,” said Governor Jeff Shell. “You’ve set a model that future CEOs will hope to fill.” He added, “It is fitting that your final Board meeting is on 9/11 because this is a job of serving your country. You’ve done an amazing job for your country, you’ve transformed this place in the last four years.”
“I want to mention the work you did helping and supporting the people here,” Governor Ambassador Karen Kornbluh remarked. “Part of being a great leader and manager is supporting the people around you, and it has been wonderful to watch, how everyone’s been able to be the best they can be thanks to your leadership.” Governor Leon Aron echoed his fellow Governors and offered his condolences to the Agency and congratulations to CEO Lansing for a job well done.
“It’s clear in the year I’ve been able to participate in this team that your dedication to fulfilling USAGM’s mission and setting high standards for the quality of work has brought benefit to the Agency and the networks,” said Jennifer Hall Godfrey, Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Much of the above transformation and modernization is detailed in the agency’s new Impact Report Card.
“The Board still retains the authority to select and name a CEO, including an interim CEO until a Senate-confirmed CEO is in place,” Chairman Weinstein added. “We are deliberating on that now and will work closely with the Interim CEO for the next Board meeting.”
“Serving at this agency has been the honor of my career,” CEO Lansing reflected in his remarks. “The team we’ve put together here really is the best team I’ve ever had because it’s mission-driven. I would dedicate my remarks to our journalists in the field—telling the truth goes as deep as putting their lives on the line and to them, I say ‘thank you.’”