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WFAE Names Joe O'Connor As New President

WFAE has named Joe O’Connor its new president and general manager. O’Connor is expected to start on February 1. O’Connor joins WFAE after spending eight years as the founding general manager of Rhode Island Public Radio, Rhode Island’s award-winning NPR® News Station.

In his new position, O’Connor will oversee WFAE’s continued commitment to local news excellence on multiple platforms as well as work with station staff to increase funding to expand the station’s local programming.

"WFAE rightly boasts an outstanding brand of award winning journalism that has become one of the most trusted sources for news in the Charlotte region," says O'Connor. "I look forward to working with WFAE's Board, staff and its tens of thousands of listeners to build on the remarkable foundation built under the helm of Roger Sarow."

Roger Sarow announced his retirement this past spring after leading WFAE for 26 years. O’Connor and Sarow will work together in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

“Joe is a seasoned journalist who believes passionately that great reporting is the oxygen of democracy. He understands that public radio – on air, on the station’s website, in its public forums – can foster the kind of important community dialogue that every city needs,” says Jon Buchan, chair of WFAE’s Board of Directors. “And he has the ability to convey that passion to WFAE members and other supporters who can provide the funds to support this critical mission. He’s a great fit for Charlotte.”

Earlier this year, WFAE’s Board of Directors engaged Stanton Chase to lead a national search for Sarow’s replacement. As part of the process, the Search Committee met with community leaders, major donors, and WFAE Staff to identify core competencies and leadership traits desired in the next President and General Manager.

“In Joe O’Connor, we have found a perfect match—a proven leader in public media and journalism that meets or exceeds every facet of the position profile we, working with our stakeholders, established,” says Nash Long, former WFAE Board of Directors Chair who led the Search Committee. “And he is a delightful person, one whom I cannot wait to introduce to the broader Charlotte community.”

As general manager of Rhode Island Public Radio, O’Connor led a successful $4 million capital campaign from 2007 to 2009 during the worst recession in decades. He brokered the station sale from Boston University to a local philanthropic board to ensure the launch of an independent, statewide NPR News network in Rhode Island. O’Connor also negotiated a partnership with Latino Public Radio, a Spanish language public radio station, for live event coverage and fundraising opportunities.

Before coming to public radio, O’Connor was a producer for “ABC News Nightline,” where he received a DuPont-Columbia award for coverage of the Iraq War; and shared in two Peabody Awards for coverage of 9/11 and for Nightline’s two decades of excellence in journalism; and earned five Emmy’s during his 22-year career at ABC News. He was a senior producer for the late Peter Jennings at “World News Tonight,” and was a producer for “PrimeTime Live,” “Good Morning America,” ABC News Radio and CNN.

O’Connor holds an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a master’s in broadcast journalism from Boston University. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2004-2005 along with Charlotte Observer Managing Editor Cheryl Carpenter.