New NPR chief got his start in Paducah

John Lansing (left) and Johanna Rhodes (then Comisak) report on the sailboat launch of two locals boating from Kentucky Lake to Hawaii in December of 1979.

Contributed photo

The new head of National Public Radio got his start as a studio and news photographer with WPSD Local 6, and his appointment came as no surprise to former colleagues.

On Thursday, NPR named John Lansing as its CEO, replacing outgoing chief Jarl Mohn.

For Johanna Rhodes, who worked with Lansing in the late 1970s, the appointment just seemed natural.

"He was a nice and eager young man who was very much into his craft," Rhodes said.

Rhodes keeps one photo of the pair on assignment -- they covered the launch of a sailboat carrying Gene Boaz and Bob Shapiro from Kentucky Lake to Hawaii.

"He was one of the bright stars," Rhodes said of Lansing.

After his time at WPSD, Lansing moved to Louisville, where he completed his studies and eventually became managing editor for WAVE 3 News.

After working in directorial positions for various outlets, Lansing, now 62, eventually landed a job as president of Scripps Networks Interactive, and most recently served as head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees the "Voice of America" programming.

He is scheduled to take the reins at NPR in October.

Cathy Crecelius, now the director of promotion and public affairs at WPSD, recalled being impressed with Lansing, though she didn't work in the field with him.

Then the head of commercial production at the station, Crecelius recalled Lansing as a strong proponent of the First Amendment.

"He was always wanting to do what was the right thing … making sure that all sides of the story were told," she said.

Crecelius recalled Lansing as "very thoughtful" about everything from the visual composition of a shot to making sure stories were reported accurately.

Lansing, who will be the 11th permanent presidnet or chief executive in the network's history, told NPR he wants to improve the network's options occupation in the areas of podcasts and streaming.

"When I think of NPR and I think of the member stations collectively, I think really of journalism as a public service, not tied to a profit motive," he told NPR News.

Crecelius said she was "thrilled" to hear of Lansing's appointment.

"It's not really surprising to me, considering all the places that he's been and all the things he's done."

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