Oregon Public Broadcasting Hires New President, a CNN Veteran

Last week, the board of directors of Oregon Public Broadcasting, or OPB, announced that Rachel Smolkin has been chosen as the next president and chief executive officer, bringing a veteran journalist focused on changing audience needs to lead the organization.  

Smolkin has spent the past decade as a leader at CNN in Washington, D.C. Currently, as senior vice president of global news for CNN Digital, she oversees breaking news, politics and Washington, U.S. and international teams across the network’s digital platforms worldwide.  

“As we celebrated our first 100 years, we were looking for a dynamic leader to chart the way forward during this time of transformational change in media,” said Rukaiyah Adams, chair of OPB’s board directors and CEO of the 1803 Fund. “Rachel will advance our work with deep experience in journalism, wide professional networks and adaptive leadership skills.”   

“I am honored to lead OPB in its next chapter serving Oregon and the Pacific Northwest,” Smolkin said. “I am energized by the commitment the board has shown for building news and public affairs programming for all Oregonians and Southwest Washingtonians, for leading conversations about solving our most urgent challenges and for innovating new ways to connect with communities.”  

Smolkin will start at OPB in September, succeeding Steve Bass, who has served as OPB’s president and CEO since 2006. Bass announced last year he would retire from the organization this year. During his 18-year tenure, Bass led OPB through a period of significant media industry change and oversaw a record expansion of individual contributions from the communities it serves to further OPB’s work.  

Smolkin thanked Bass “for his stewardship of a beloved brand and his generosity during this process. I look forward to getting to know the OPB team and our members and moving forward together.”

The search committee for OPB was led by John Tapogna, vice chair of the OPB board of directors. Tapogna is president emeritus at ECOnorthwest, a public policy consulting firm.  “Across an impressive candidate pool, we encountered visionary journalists and strong business strategists. Ms. Smolkin is both.”  

Smolkin came to CNN in 2014 to build the network’s coverage of Washington, politics and elections into a top digital politics brand. Her portfolio grew to include the breaking news, U.S. and international teams. Before coming to CNN, she served in leadership and editing roles at Politico, USA Today and American Journalism Review magazine.  

Smolkin has an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, where she attended the global executive program as a Batten Media Fellow alongside her work at CNN. She completed the Sulzberger Executive Leadership program at Columbia University and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown University.  

She and her family are moving to Portland this summer.  

– Lauren Elkanich, Director of Communications, OPB. photo courtesy of CNN 

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