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Two former National Public Radio reporters will have a hand in directing the news at Montana Public Radio and shaping the next generation of journalists at the University of Montana.

This semester, former National Public Radio correspondent Larry Abramson begins his tenure as the new dean of the university’s School of Journalism, replacing interim dean Denise Dowling.

This week, Montana Public Radio also announced the hiring National Public Radio veteran Eric Whitney as the station’s new director of news. The announcement comes three months after former MTPR news director Sally Mauk retired from the airwaves.

“It was one of the most important searches we’ve done in a long time,” MTPR station manager William Marcus said Tuesday. “Sally was there for 30 years. It was not only important to replace her with someone to carry on the tradition, but someone who would look at MPR news with fresh ears.”

Whitney has spent most of his 20-year career in public radio reporting on the West. He reported for Colorado Public Radio, including KRCC in Colorado Springs, and served as assistant news director for High Plains News in Billings.

Most recently, Whitney covered the health beat for National Public Radio and Kaiser Health News. Marcus described Whitney as a proven professional who will continue the station’s tradition of excellence.

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“I’m very conscious of the fact our listeners are used to a certain routine and level of professionalism,” said Marcus. “They expect certain things and can expect that to continue, though the scheduling and emphasis could be different.”

While Whitney takes the lead in news at MTPR, former National Public Radio correspondent Abramson is beginning his first semester as the new dean at the School of Journalism.

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Abramson, who was named to the post in April, replaces Dowling, who held the post on an interim basis for two years.

“It’s the first time ever we have a dean whose primary background isn’t in newspapers,” Dowling told the Missoulian. “I think that reflects the changing world of journalism. We’re quite excited to have a leader who comes from a different platform.”

In the 1990s, Abramson designed the NPR Diversity Initiative to bring more young, minority journalists to public radio. Over the course of his career, he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, chronicled the recovery of schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and analyzed civil liberties turmoil after 9/11.

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Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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