Margaret Low Named General Manager and CEO of WBUR, with Eye on Live Events
Previously at The Atlantic, she built up live events into core business
WBUR, Boston University’s National Public Radio station, named Margaret Low as its new CEO and general manager on Monday. Low previously led the live-events strategy at The Atlantic, and prior to that had been senior vice president for news at NPR and a former senior producer for All Things Considered.
“Margaret is an accomplished journalist and media executive who possesses a rare combination of editorial and business expertise,” said Paul Gannon, chair of the WBUR board of directors and the search committee in a press release announcing her appointment. “Her ability to drive results at The Atlantic plus her extensive journalism and management experience in public media make her the ideal person to lead WBUR into its next phase.”
Gannon said WBUR’s goal under Low will be to enhance its service to the community as a multimedia organization “with a powerful presence on-air, online, on-demand, and on-stage.”
“WBUR is a beacon of excellence in the public radio system,” Low said in the press release. “With local journalism facing immense challenges, the strength of its programming and news coverage has never been more important. This is an extraordinary opportunity, and I can’t wait to work with my new colleagues to make WBUR an even more vital force in Boston and beyond.”
WBUR has made live events a key strategic initiative, with this year’s opening of its CitySpace live events venue at the Lavine Broadcast Center on Commonwealth Avenue, which makes Low’s background an ideal fit for the station.
At The Atlantic, Low oversaw its live events division, which produces more than 100 events a year across the country and around the world. According to a WBUR release, Low “transformed the multimillion dollar events business into a live journalism juggernaut and positioned The Atlantic at the forefront of the industry, delivering unmatched audience experiences, strong revenue growth, and contribution to the bottom line while expanding its reach to more than 20,000 attendees.” The release stated that under her leadership, her team turned the 11-year-old Washington Ideas Forum, now The Atlantic Festival, into a multiday, multistage thought leadership event with nearly 3,000 attendees.
The AtlanticLIVE portfolio was expanded under Low to include summits on issues such as race and justice, aging, health, and the future of work and education.
While she was at NPR, Low led the coverage of some of the biggest global stories of the last decade, from the Arab Spring to the wars in Syria and Libya to the killing of Osama bin Laden and from Hurricane Sandy to the reelection of Barack Obama to the Boston Marathon bombings. “In addition,” WBUR’s release said, “she oversaw the development of new ethical guidelines as well as new safety and security protocols for journalists working in hostile environments.”
Low replaces Charlie Kravetz, who stepped down from WBUR in June, shortly after station journalists voted overwhelmingly to create a union and after a tumultuous period marked by the 2018 ousting of longtime On Point host Tom Ashbrook.
Her arrival also comes after a structural change in the relationship between WBUR and Boston University. This past summer, BU agreed to share control of WBUR with a station board, whose members had previously been advisors and donors with no decision-making power. The new arrangement gave a new executive committee the authority to hire and fire the station’s general manager and oversee its finances. The committee still reports to BU’s president, as BU continues to own WBUR’s broadcast license.
“I am pleased to have Margaret join us as the next leader of WBUR,” says Robert A. Brown, president of BU. “She has the ideal background and the ability to take WBUR into the next era of public radio.”
“I collaborated with Margaret for many years when she was at NPR and was always impressed with her intelligence, warmth, and extraordinary communication skills,” says Sam Fleming, WBUR interim general manager and managing director of news and programming. “In fact, Margaret was instrumental in forging WBUR’s unique editorial partnership with NPR and Here & Now in 2013, a midday news destination that continues to thrive. Margaret understands the heart and soul of what makes public radio special. She’ll be a powerful force to lead us as we continue to evolve in the new media landscape.”
Low earned a bachelor’s in English language and literature at the University of Michigan School of Communications. She is vice chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a board member of Wallace House at the University of Michigan, home to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship for Journalism. She was the 2017 Commencement speaker for the Michigan School of Communications.