CNN Senior VP Rachel Smolkin Exits Network for Oregon Public Broadcasting CEO Role

Rachel Smolkin, senior vice president of global news for CNN Digital Worldwide, is departing the network for a new role as the president and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the network announced Thursday.

Smolkin, who handles coverage on CNN’s global digital platforms, will leave in early July after 10 years with the network. She will begin her chief executive role at OPB in September, succeeding Steve Bass, who has occupied the role since 2006.

“I want us to build a model together that sets the national standard for multi-platform, nonprofit regional journalism,” Smolkin said in an interview with OPB. “I believe that we can.”

This news comes just a month after the announcement of the departure of CNN senior vice president and Washington Bureau chief Sam Feist, who is set to become the new CEO of C-SPAN. The high-profile executive departures from CNN are notable, particularly as the network gears up to host the first presidential debate later this month and cover the consequential 2024 election.

Prior to her latest role at CNN, Smolkin served as vice president of news for CNN Digital after helming CNN Politics for six years as the vice president and executive editor. Before joining CNN, Smolkin was a managing editor at Politico, USA Today and American Journalism Review magazine.

The OPB board was searching for a replacement for Bass for nearly a year after he announced his departure, conducting a thorough national recruitment before landing on Smolkin.

According to OPB, Smolkin will kick off her tenure as CEO by listening to staffers and learning about the region and public media operations. She told the organization that she doesn’t plan to make broad strategy changes, but rather make small adjustments and build on what is successful.

“I believe deeply in the public service mission. I believe that our country urgently needs strong local and regional news reporting,” she said. “OPB is a leader in this space now with a deep commitment to public service and a strong business model sustained by the generosity and dedication of our members. And we can continue to build on that.”

Smolkin added that she sees opportunity in the nonprofit journalism sector, saying, “There’s a lot of energy right now in the nonprofit space around lifting up local journalism. How do we tap into that?”

Puck News’ Dylan Byers first reported the news of Smolkin’s departure.

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