Chicago Sun-Times CEO stepping down one year after merger with public radio station WBEZ – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

One year after the Chicago Sun-Times joined WBEZ to became a nonprofit newspaper under Chicago Public Media, its CEO, Nykia Wright, is stepping down.

The announcement Monday follows a leave of absence by Wright this month that generated speculation of her impending departure.

Chicago Public Media CEO Matt Moog will “work directly” with Sun-Times management to oversee day-to-day operations going forward, according to a news release.

“I’m very grateful for Nykia’s leadership, especially as we brought together two outstanding and beloved news organizations, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Chicago, under the Chicago Public Media umbrella,” Moog said. “I wish her all the very best in her next chapter.”

Wright had helmed the Sun-Times in its waning days as a struggling for-profit newspaper and remained CEO after its merger with public radio station WBEZ-FM 91.5 was finalized Jan. 31 of last year. But she had been on leave for several weeks, according to Chicago Public Media spokeswoman Betsy Berger.

Berger declined to comment on the circumstances of the leave, while Wright did not respond to a request for comment.

“I will miss leading this storied institution, but all good things eventually must come to an end,” Wright said in the news release. “I look forward to sharing my future plans soon.”

Wright started as chief operating officer at the Sun-Times in 2017 and was named CEO the following year, guiding the newspaper through the pandemic and the brink of “extinction,” she told the Tribune during a 2020 interview.

She made the transition to a nonprofit CEO during the groundbreaking merger that put the venerable daily tabloid — long Chicago’s No. 2 newspaper — and WBEZ, an NPR station that reinvented itself a local news powerhouse, together under the banner of Chicago Public Media.

The newspaper and radio station operate separate newsrooms but share content and resources.

Wright reported to Moog, a Chicago tech entrepreneur who was elevated from interim to permanent CEO of Chicago Public Media in 2021.

In June, the Sun-Times named Jennifer Kho, the former managing editor of Huffpost and Guardian US, as its executive editor under Wright. She will now report to Moog, according to the news release.

Chicago Public Media raised $61 million in philanthropic support to finance the merger, with the money pledged over five years to fund the Sun-Times operation, including commitments to deepen and broaden its journalism, maintain the print newspaper and invest in a digital transformation.

In October, the Sun-Times dropped its paywall, opening up its news content to all readers. At the same time, it introduced a digital membership program, with benefits for those who contribute at least $60 per year.

The move to a nonprofit newspaper — a growing trend as traditional news media struggle to navigate the digital age — followed a series of existential challenges for the Sun-Times during the new millennium.

In 2009, a group led by former Mesirow CEO Jim Tyree rescued the Sun-Times from bankruptcy, paying $5 million in cash and taking on $20 million in liabilities.

Wrapports, a local investor group headed by tech entrepreneur Michael Ferro, stepped up after Tyree’s death to buy the Sun-Times and 38 suburban newspapers for about $20 million in December 2011. The suburban papers were sold to the Chicago Tribune for $23.5 million in 2014.

An investor group that included the Chicago Federation of Labor bought the money-losing Sun-Times from Wrapports for $1 in 2017, after Tribune Publishing was thwarted in its own bid to buy the newspaper by Justice Department antitrust concerns.

While the Sun-Times is now a nonprofit newspaper, supported like WBEZ by donations and memberships, it is still pitching subscription offers.

Subscribers recently received an email from Wright asking them to “continue supporting the Chicago Sun-Times with a voluntary membership,” which required no action, other than to keep paying the bill.

“Although instead of a subscription, you will now be supporting the Sun-Times as a member,” Wright said in the email.

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