BPR announces new News Director

Press release from Blue Ridge Public Radio:

Blue Ridge Public Radio has selected Laura Lee as its new News Director.

Before joining BPR as interim News Director in January 2023, Lee worked to build collaborative coverage of elections administration and democracy in North Carolina. She previously served as the news editor at the statewide investigative outlet Carolina Public Press and as a writer and editor at the national education publication Edutopia.

BPR’s Big Switch placed the organization publicly on a ‘news-forward” footing,’” says Jeff Pope, CEO and General Manager of BPR. “But behind the scenes, BPR restructured to elevate the News Director position to senior leadership and conducted a national search. Laura has proven to be a dedicated leader with excellent news judgement, creativity, and sharp coaching and mentoring instincts.”

During Lee’s tenure as interim News Director, news production doubled, as did the focus on accountability journalism, including recent stories on the use of government funds for the purchase of the Higdon Estate in Macon County and, in collaboration with the Smoky Mountain News, the pursuit of body camera footage from the SWAT shooting of an unarmed man in Murphy.

Lee began her public media journalism career as a producer and booker at NPR in Washington, DC on All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. She returned to her native North Carolina to manage The State of Things, a live daily statewide show on WUNC in Durham, NC. Laura received her master’s in journalism from the University of Maryland and her bachelor’s degree in political science and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“The biggest motivating factors for me joining BPR are its mission of public service and the opportunity to work with talented and dedicated journalists,” said Lee. “The station is at a critical moment in its growth, and I am excited to guide its expansion of coverage to reflect all the voices in the region.“

Lee’s hiring comes at a time of growth for BPR, as the station is currently recruiting for three new positions: a full-time reporter and afternoon host, a full-time reporter to cover issues, events and government in the Asheville metropolitan area, and an Audience Director to increase its broadcast, digital, social, and in-person engagement.

BPR is currently participating in a performance-drive change training program called Table Stakes at the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at UNC Chapel Hill. Founded by the Sulzberger Family and the Poynter Institute in 2008, Table Stakes helps local news organizations change their culture to be agile in targeting audience with targeted content, on whatever platform they use and find valuable.

“Led by Laura, BPR will innovate and adapt its reporting across radio, digital, and social media, and strengthen our collaborations with other news outlets,” said Pope. “With her guidance and our upcoming new hires, BPR will be positioned to grow with the region we serve and increase our trusted coverage that gives Western North Carolinians a deeper understanding of one another and the world.”

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