Susan Smith Richardson, an award-winning editor with over three decades of experience as a newsroom leader producing innovative, powerful journalism, has been named Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Public Integrity.
Richardson will take the helm of one of America’s oldest nonprofit investigative journalism organizations as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
In that time, the Center has produced substantive stories that have won some of journalism’s highest honors, including several Pulitzer Prizes.
“We are thrilled that Susan, an outstanding and innovative newsroom leader, will become our CEO. We are also excited to have the first African-American leader at the helm of one of investigative journalism’s most prestigious organizations,” said board chairman Jim Kiernan. “She brings important new perspectives to investigative reporting and her vision, intelligence and experience will lead us to new heights.”
Richardson is currently Editorial Director, Newsroom Practice Change, at Solutions Journalism Network, a New York based nonprofit where she spearheads an initiative that seeks to increase civic engagement and strengthen democracy. Prior to that, she was Editor and Publisher at The Chicago Reporter, a nonprofit investigative newsroom that focuses on race, poverty and income inequality, and Managing Editor at the Texas Observer, a venerable voice for independent journalism in the state. She has been an editor at the Chicago Tribune and the Sacramento Bee, where she led a team reporting on grassroots efforts to rebuild South Central Los Angeles after the 1992 unrest. She has also been named one of the most powerful women in Chicago media.
“The Center has a proud legacy of hard-hitting journalism. I plan to build on that legacy, focusing on making our work more accessible and more relevant to communities across the country,” said Richardson. “At a time of disinformation and disaffection with institutions, we have to rethink what issues we cover, how we cover them and whose stories define what is newsworthy, if we truly are to hold power to account.”
Richardson has served on the commentary and editorial writing juries for the Pulitzer Prize. She was also a fellow at the Nieman Foundation and a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center. She received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas-Austin and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard, where she studied poverty and community development.
“As a longtime media executive, I know Susan is ideally suited to lead the Center,” said Richard Lobo, chairman of the search committee. “She has a unique blend of experience in both nonprofit and commercial media, and a track record as an innovative leader in newsrooms big and small. She brings a fresh and bold outlook we need.”
Under Richardson’s leadership, The Chicago Reporter received several honors, including a 2017 innovation award from Investigative Reporters and Editors for a project documenting payouts for lawsuit settlements against police officers. The project also received an award of excellence from the Society for News Design and was cited as an important public service by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The Center has chosen the perfect leader for this moment,” said Geneva Overholser, former chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board and well-known journalism educator. “Her commitment to social justice and her understanding of both the challenges and opportunities we face today will ensure that CPI continues its tradition of fearless and essential journalism.”
The Center for Public Integrity was founded in 1989 by former “60 Minutes” producer Charles Lewis with the mission of exposing abuses of power by government and corporate interests. Among its many noteworthy stories were those that exposed how major political contributors were rewarded with overnight stays at the White House; how doctors and lawyers worked with the coal industry to defeat benefits claims of miners dying from black lung; and how the wealthy have exploited offshore tax havens in the Panama Papers.
Richardson joins the Center on May 20. She succeeds Jim Morris, who is serving as interim CEO and is Managing Editor for the environment and workers’ rights team.