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GBH names former top National Geographic editor Susan Goldberg as CEO

Goldberg, who also ran newspapers in Cleveland and San Jose, Calif., will be the first woman to lead Boston’s public media giant.

Susan GoldbergGBH/Courtesy of GBH

GBH, the Boston public media giant, said on Monday that it has named Susan Goldberg as chief executive officer, turning to a seasoned journalist from outside the organization as it navigates the rapidly shifting news and entertainment landscapes.

Previously the top editor at National Geographic magazine in Washington, D.C., Goldberg will be the first woman to lead GBH since it was founded in 1951.

Goldberg, who also served as the top editor at newspapers in Cleveland and San Jose, Calif., succeeds Jonathan Abbott, who announced in February that he would step down after 15 years as CEO. She will start on Dec. 1.

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With Goldberg’s appointment, three of Boston’s major news outlets will soon be run by women: Linda Henry is CEO of the Globe, and Margaret Low has been running WBUR, GBH’s local NPR news competitor, for the past three years. Last week the Globe announced the hiring of Nancy Barnes, NPR’s chief news executive, as its next editor.

Goldberg, 62, set herself apart from a large pool of candidates with her mix of editorial and management skills, experience in taking traditional media into the digital world, and commitment to community and diversity, according to Ann Fudge, chairwoman of the GBH board of trustees and head of the search committee.

“We’ve always been viewed as trusted, trusted in the work we do, whether it happens to be in the journalistic space, or just more broadly, and that to me was really important to hold on to,” Fudge said in an interview.

Although Goldberg hasn’t worked in public broadcasting, Fudge said she and the search committee came to believe “we need maybe a little bit more skew toward journalism instead of media.”

Abbott kick-started GBH’s move beyond over-the-air broadcasting, developing new channels and digital platforms to deliver GBH’s nationally syndicated programming such as “Nova” and “Frontline” to a wider audience. Goldberg said GBH’s biggest challenge is the same one facing all media organizations.

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“Linear television, radio — those are incredibly important ways of telling stories. Tons of people get their information that way,” she said in an interview. “At the same time, we know that there is a streaming and digital future, and the future is really here. We’ve got to do both of those things at the same time.”

At National Geographic, where she was named editor-in-chief in 2014 and added the role of editorial director a year later, Goldberg was credited with expanding coverage, moving the iconic print magazine into the online world, and creating content partnerships with ABC News, ProPublica, and the National Geographic Channel.

During her eight-year tenure, National Geographic won 11 National Magazine Awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize three times.

She also diversified the magazine’s staff and roster of contributors. More than half of its stories are now written by women, up from 20 percent early in her run, and 30 percent of writers are people of color, up from 3 percent, she said.

“I’m really proud of the progress that we made at National Geographic while totally conceding there is much more progress to make,” Goldberg said. There will be diversity work to do at GBH, too. The organization disclosed in July 2021 that 80 percent of its workforce was white.

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“I expect she’ll focus not only on digital transformation at the largest PBS station in the US, but also on creating a sustainable financial future that protects the integrity and mission of public media journalism, documentary-making, and educational programming that GBH is known and loved for,” said Indira Lakshmanan, senior executive editor at National Geographic under Goldberg, and previously a longtime Globe foreign correspondent and opinion columnist.

GBH has about 830 employees, including 112 in its newsroom. Revenue was $287 million in 2021. Abbott earned $719,000 in fiscal year 2020, according to GBH’s most recent 990 filing for nonprofits. GBH said Goldberg’s compensation would be “similar.”

Goldberg, the first woman to run National Geographic, left earlier this year for Arizona State University to become vice dean and a professor at both its Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the College of Global Futures.

Prior to the magazine, she spent four years as an executive editor in Bloomberg’s Washington bureau, and before that she was editor of Cleveland’s Plain Dealer from 2007 to 2010, and managing editor and then executive editor of The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif., from 1999 to 2007. She was the first woman to run the newsroom at both papers.

Goldberg was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Mich., where her father was a professor at the University of Michigan. She earned her BA in journalism at rival Michigan State University.

“Believe me, I have never heard the end of it,” she said.

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Goldberg, who is married to a real estate lawyer with whom she has one adult son, plans to move to the Boston area later this year from her current home in Washington.

“I’m very excited to be in an American League city again because I grew up with the Detroit Tigers,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how long Margaret Low has been CEO of WBUR.


Larry Edelman can be reached at larry.edelman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd.