Person

Katherine Maher

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

President and CEO, National Public Radio

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Katherine Maher is an American nonprofit executive who worked as chief executive officer of the Wikimedia Foundation from 2014 to 2021 and was appointed president and CEO of National Public Radio in March 2024. In April 2024, Maher attracted controversy for numerous statements indicating left-of-center political views after long-time NPR editor Uri Berliner publicly criticized the organization and ultimately resigned from it. 1

Family

Katherine Maher grew up in the affluent town of Wilton, Connecticut. Maher’s father worked in finance and her grandfather worked at IBM. 2

In 2023, Maher married Ashutosh Upreti, a technology industry lawyer. The two met in 2019 at a nondenominational Seder, and Maher initially mistook Upreti’s romantic interest as an attempt to get a job at the Wikimedia Foundation where Maher  worked as chief executive officer. At the time, Upreti was a lawyer at Lyft. As of August 2023, he works as the chief legal officer at CareRev, a tech company focused on healthcare staffing. 3

Early Career

While attending New York University to earn a degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Katherine Maher interned at the Council on Foreign Relations. In the summer of 2005, shortly after graduating, Maher interned at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm. 4 During or after that time, Maher lived in Cairo, Egypt where she studied Arabic. She also visited Syria and other countries in the region. 5

From 2005 to 2007, Maher worked at HSBC as an international manager. 6

Maher then left the for-profit sector to work at UNICEF as an innovation and communication officer until 2010. She then worked as an ICT Innovation Specialist at the World Bank. 7

In January 2012, Maher became a security fellow at the left-leaning Truman National Security Project. As of April 2024, Maher’s LinkedIn page indicated that she remained in this role. 8

From 2013 to 2014, Maher worked as the advocacy director of Access Now, a digital rights advocacy group. 9

Wikimedia Foundation

From April 2014 to April 2021, Katherine Maher worked at the Wikimedia Foundation, starting as the chief communication officer, and working as the chief executive officer for over five years. 10

When Maher left the Wikimedia Foundation in 2021, she received a severance payout of $623,286, more than one and half times her salary at the organization. 11

Fundraising

Maher’s tenure at the Foundation was both praised and criticized for its focus on fundraising. 12 In March 2021, the Daily Dot asked, “Wikipedia is swimming in money—why is it begging people to donate?” The article criticized the Wikimedia Foundation’s aggressive fundraising, which included hanging up banners around the world asking for donations. The organization had raised its total fundraising by $200 million to about $300 million over the previous five years. In 2016, Wikimedia established an endowment under the Tides Foundation, a left-of-center pass-through funder, with the goal of establishing a $100 million endowment by 2025. Wikimedia met its goal five years ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, an estimate made within Wikimedia in 2013 stated that the organization could reach a $10 million annual budget. 13

Censorship

As the head of the Wikimedia Foundation, Maher pushed the organization to combat perceived misinformation. After leaving the Foundation, Maher stated in an interview that under her direction, the organization “took a very active approach to disinformation and misinformation” by creating “a clearinghouse of information that brings the institution of the Wikimedia Foundation with the editing community in order to be able to identify threats early on.” Maher has acknowledged working with the U.S. government to combat alleged misinformation. 14

Other Positions

While still working at the Wikimedia Foundation, Maher was named a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a young global leader at the World Economic Forum, and a team member at the Council on Foreign Relations. She retains all three positions as of April 2024, according to her LinkedIn page. 15

From 2018 to 2020, Maher was on the board of the Sunlight Foundation, a left-of-center advocate for government transparency. 16

From June 2022 to January 2024, Maher served as a member of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board in the U.S. Department of State under President Joe Biden. 17

From January 2023 to March 2024, Maher sat on the board of Frame, a news outlet. 18

From April to June 2023, Maher was a lecturer at Stanford University. 19

In October 2023, Maher became the chief executive officer of Web Summit, an annual technology conference, after co-founder and CEO Paddy Cosgrove resigned following a series of posts on X in which Cosgrove accused Israel of war crimes for its conduct in Gaza. Maher resigned in January 2024 20 as she announced that she would be joining National Public Radio in March. 21

As of April 2024, Maher sits on the boards of Signal, System Inc. Web Summit, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Adventure Scientists, Consumer Reports, the American University of Beirut, and the Digital Public Library of America. 22

National Public Radio (NPR)

In March 2024, Katherine Maher became the president and chief executive officer of National Public Radio. 23 NPR described Maher as a leader suited for “an era of declining broadcast listenership, financial uncertainty and technological turbulence.” Maher first started listening to NPR as a child while riding in the car with her parents, and attributes her life-long interest in the Middle East to NPR’s coverage. 24

Maher has condemned the use of the term “content” to refer to the output of media outlets like NPR. She has stated that she wants to come up with an alternative term that is not “an empty vessel.” 25

The selection of Maher as CEO has been both praised and criticized for her lack of background in journalism. 26 27 28

Political Views

Since her appointment as CEO of NPR, Maher has attracted criticism from right-leaning media outlets concerning recent and past statements on X (formerly known as Twitter) and elsewhere. The New York Post has referred to Maher as “the ultimate woke-elite bingo card.” 29

In April 2024, Manhattan Institute-affiliated writer Christopher Rufo published a blog post entitled “Quotations from Chairman Maher” that cites dozens of Maher’s previous comments. Rufo summarizes: 30

“What you notice first about Maher’s public speech are the buzzwords and phrases: “structural privilege,” “epistemic emergency,” “transit justice,” “non-binary people,” “late-stage capitalism,” “cis white mobility privilege,” “the politics of representation,” “folx.” She supported Black Lives Matter from its earliest days. She compares driving cars with smoking cigarettes. She is very concerned about “toxic masculinity.”

On every topic, Maher adopts the fashionable language of left-wing academic theory and uses it as social currency, even when her efforts veer into self-parody. She never explains, never provides new interpretation—she just repeats the phrases, in search of affirmation and, when the time is right, a promotion.”

In November 2023, Maher criticized OpenAI for not having any women or racial minorities on its board. 31

In a 2022 TED Talk, Maher stated, “our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that’s getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done.” 32

In November 2020, Maher posted, “It’s so strange to be called a “Biden supporter.” I’m a supporter of human rights, dignity, and justice.” 33

In May 2020, Maher made a post referring to then-President Donald Trump as a “deranged racist sociopath.” 34

In January 2020, Maher made a series of Twitter posts on the history of slavery in the United States. She stated, “I grew up feeling superior (hah, how white of me) because I was from New England and my part of the country didn’t have slaves, or so I’d been taught.” She concluded with an endorsement for the U.S. government to pay reparations to Black Americans. 35

In October 2016, Maher posted that it was her “pet peeve” that in her experience, more than 80 percent of business class airline passengers were white and usually male. 36

Maher has posted that she is unwilling to have children due to climate change. 37

Uri Berliner Suspension

On April 9, 2024, the Free Press published a piece by 25-year NPR veteran editor Uri Berliner, in which he criticized NPR for pervasive left-wing bias. Though Berliner acknowledged that NPR always had a “liberal bent,” he claimed that after the election of former President Trump, the outlet became far more left-leaning and now represents “the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population” consisting of left-wing educated coastal elites. Berliner blamed the shift on a failure of NPR’s leadership and staff to maintain journalistic objectivity above their political views. Before publishing, Berliner conducted research on the political leanings of NPR’s staff, found that it was overwhelmingly Democratic, presented his findings internally, and was met with “profound indifference.” Berliner’s piece concludes with optimism that NPR’s new CEO, Maher, comes from a tech background rather than journalism, and therefore may be open to challenging the outlet’s lack of ideological diversity. 38

After the article’s publication, many of Berliner’s NPR colleagues signed a letter to Maher asking how Berliner’s article would impact NPR’s news coverage. 39

On April 12, Maher responded to Berliner with a letter published on NPR. Maher broadly defended NPR, praised the organization’s integrity, called Berliner’s analysis “deeply simplistic,” and suggested that NPR’s newsroom is representative of the United States. Maher announced that NPR would be launching “quarterly NPR Network-wide editorial planning and review meetings” to garner more feedback on NPR’s programming. However, Maher made no commitments to addressing Berliner’s stated concerns regarding bias or ideological diversity. 40

Also on April 12, Berliner was given a five-day suspension without pay, officially for doing work outside of NPR without informing his employer. 41 42

On April 15, Berliner criticized Maher. In an interview, Berliner stated: “We’re looking for a leader right now who’s going to be unifying and bring more people into the tent and have a broader perspective on, sort of, what America is all about… And [Maher] seems to be the opposite of that.” 43

On April 17, Berliner resigned from NPR with an email stating, “I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.” 44

References

  1. Folkenflik, David. “NPR editor Uri Berliner resigns with blast at new CEO.” NPR, April 17, 2024. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/04/17/1245283076/npr-editor-uri-berliner-resigns-ceo-katherine-maher.
  2. “Katherine Maher.” X. May 14, 2020. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/1260960520586145797.
  3. Radomsky, Rosalie R. “Was It a Job Interview or a Date? She Soon Found Out.” New York Times. August 4, 2023. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/04/style/katherine-maher-ashutosh-upreti-wedding.html.
  4. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  5. Folkenflik, David. “NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era.” National Public Radio. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/01/24/1226035539/npr-ceo-katherine-maher-wikimedia.
  6. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  7. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  8. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  9. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  10. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  11. Kolbe, Andreas. “Golden parachutes: Record severance payments at Wikimedia Foundation.” Wikipedia. May 22, 2023. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2023-05-22/News_and_notes.
  12. Folkenflik, David. “NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era.” National Public Radio. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/01/24/1226035539/npr-ceo-katherine-maher-wikimedia.
  13. Kolbe, Andreas. “Wikipedia is swimming in money—why is it begging people to donate?” Daily Dot. May 24, 2021. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.dailydot.com/debug/wikipedia-endownemnt-fundraising/.
  14. Morrissey, Ed. “NPR CEO: You Better Believe I Partnered With Gov’t to Suppress ‘Misinformation’ About Pandemic, Elections.” Hot Air. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://hotair.com/ed-morrissey/2024/04/17/npr-ceo-you-better-believe-i-partnered-with-govt-to-suppress-misinformation-about-pandemic-elections-n3786683.
  15. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  16. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  17. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  18. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  19. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  20. Curran, Ian. “Web Summit boss Katherine Maher to leave role after three months.” The Irish Times. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.irishtimes.com/business/2024/01/24/web-summit-boss-katherine-maher-to-leave-role-after-three-months/.
  21. “Katherine Maher.” X. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/1750226270149873888.
  22. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  23. “Katherine Maher.” LinkedIn. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/krmaher/.
  24.  Folkenflik, David. “NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era.” National Public Radio. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/01/24/1226035539/npr-ceo-katherine-maher-wikimedia.
  25. Folkenflik, David. “NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era.” National Public Radio. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/01/24/1226035539/npr-ceo-katherine-maher-wikimedia.
  26. Folkenflik, David. “NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era.” National Public Radio. January 24, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/01/24/1226035539/npr-ceo-katherine-maher-wikimedia.
  27. Kennedy, Dana. “Hotseat heats up for NPR CEO Katherine Maher — and her life is the ultimate woke-elite bingo card.” New York Post. April 18, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://nypost.com/2024/04/18/us-news/npr-ceo-katherine-mahers-life-is-like-a-woke-elite-bingo-card/.
  28. Berliner, Uri. “I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust.” The Free Press. April 9, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.thefp.com/p/npr-editor-how-npr-lost-americas-trust.
  29. Kennedy, Dana. “Hotseat heats up for NPR CEO Katherine Maher — and her life is the ultimate woke-elite bingo card.” New York Post. April 18, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://nypost.com/2024/04/18/us-news/npr-ceo-katherine-mahers-life-is-like-a-woke-elite-bingo-card/.
  30. Rufo, Christopher F. “Quotations from Chairman Maher.” SubStack. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://christopherrufo.com/p/quotations-from-chairman-maher.
  31. “Katherine Maher.” Twitter. November 22, 2023. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/1727302830397264017.
  32. Kennedy, Dana. “Hotseat heats up for NPR CEO Katherine Maher — and her life is the ultimate woke-elite bingo card.” New York Post. April 18, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://nypost.com/2024/04/18/us-news/npr-ceo-katherine-mahers-life-is-like-a-woke-elite-bingo-card/.
  33. “Katherine Maher.” X. November 7, 2020. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/1325131055121096706.
  34. “Katherine Maher.” X. May 14, 2020. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/1260960520586145797.
  35. “Katherine Maher.” Twitter. January 20, 2020. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/1219380413837316102.
  36. “Katherine Maher.” Twitter. October 14, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://twitter.com/krmaher/status/786906398986678272.
  37. Rufo, Christopher F. “Quotations from Chairman Maher.” SubStack. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://christopherrufo.com/p/quotations-from-chairman-maher.
  38. Berliner, Uri. “I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust.” The Free Press. April 9, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.thefp.com/p/npr-editor-how-npr-lost-americas-trust.
  39. Folkenfilk, David. “NPR editor Uri Berliner resigns with blast at new CEO.” National Public Radio. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/04/17/1245283076/npr-editor-uri-berliner-resigns-ceo-katherine-maher.
  40. Maher, Katherine. “From NPR President and CEO Katherine Maher: Thoughts on our mission and our work.” National Public Radio. April 12, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/sections/npr-extra/2024/04/12/1244456600/from-npr-president-and-ceo-katherine-maher-thoughts-on-our-mission-and-our-work.
  41. Folkenfilk, David. “NPR editor Uri Berliner resigns with blast at new CEO.” National Public Radio. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/04/17/1245283076/npr-editor-uri-berliner-resigns-ceo-katherine-maher.
  42. Folkenfilk, David. “NPR suspends veteran editor as it grapples with his public criticism.” National Public Radio. April 16, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/04/16/1244962042/npr-editor-uri-berliner-suspended-essay.
  43. Folkenfilk, David. “NPR suspends veteran editor as it grapples with his public criticism.” National Public Radio. April 16, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/04/16/1244962042/npr-editor-uri-berliner-suspended-essay.
  44. Folkenfilk, David. “NPR editor Uri Berliner resigns with blast at new CEO.” National Public Radio. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.npr.org/2024/04/17/1245283076/npr-editor-uri-berliner-resigns-ceo-katherine-maher.
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