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NPR’s new CEO is longtime ‘Sesame Street’ honcho

FILE - In this May 17 2010 file phoGary E. Knell attends 69th Annual George Foster Peabody Awards New York.

FILE - In this May 17, 2010 file photo, Gary E. Knell attends the 69th Annual George Foster Peabody Awards in New York. Knell, the longtime president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, will take over leadership of the NPR on Dec. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)

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Updated: November 15, 2011 10:09AM

WASHINGTON — The man who helped bring “Sesame Street” to a global audience for the past 11 years will take over as president and CEO of NPR, the public radio network announced Sunday.

Gary Knell, the longtime president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, will start at NPR on Dec. 1.

Knell succeeds Vivian Schiller, who resigned under pressure in March after a former NPR fund-raiser was caught on camera calling the Tea Party racist. The episode led some conservatives to call for an end to federal funding for NPR, but Congress retained the funds as part of a budget deal in April.

Schiller was also criticized for firing analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims.

Knell, 57, told the Associated Press on Sunday that he wanted to “depoliticize” NPR by highlighting its commitment to hard-hitting journalism across multiple platforms. He said he does not believe that NPR is biased and wants to try to change the minds of those who perceive it as such.

“I think NPR needs to do a better job of telling a story,” Knell said. “It’s about journalism, it’s about news. It’s not about promoting one political agenda or another.”

NPR’s board voted unanimously to hire Knell after a national search.

“Gary is an extraordinary leader with extensive experience in public media, programming and education,” chairman Dave Edwards said in a statement.


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