ProPublica announced today that Robin Sparkman, founding CEO of StoryCorps, has been elected by its Board of Directors as president and co-CEO of ProPublica. Her appointment, succeeding Richard Tofel, whose retirement from ProPublica was announced in February, will be effective September 8.
Sparkman, 52, has been CEO of StoryCorps since 2014, having more than doubled the organization’s annual revenues to $20 million and adding $6.5 million to its reserves during that time. Sparkman came to the nonprofit media organization after more than two decades as a reporter and editor. She served as editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer from 2010–2014, and earlier as executive editor, as well as deputy editorial director of parent company American Lawyer Media. Previous work included stints at MSNBC.com and Newsweek. Sparkman is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Wellesley College, where she is a member of the Business Leadership Council. She holds a certificate in nonprofit management from Harvard Business School and serves on the executive committee of the board of Union Settlement of East Harlem.
Paul Sagan, chairman of the Board of ProPublica, said, “After a thorough national search, our Board search committee and full Board unanimously concluded that Robin Sparkman was the right business leader to take ProPublica to even greater success. Robin combines business savvy, deep editorial understanding, a fundamental commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and a passion for journalism that spurs change.”
Sparkman said, “I am thrilled and humbled to be ProPublica’s next president. No one is doing the deep, transformative reporting in the same way that ProPublica does. It will be an honor to work with such an extraordinary team.”
Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica’s editor-in-chief and co-CEO, who along with Sparkman reports to its Board, said, “I can’t wait to start working with Robin. Her career as a reporter, editor, and nonprofit executive makes her the ideal partner to help us plan the next steps in ProPublica’s evolution as a national news organization.”
Richard Tofel, who was ProPublica’s first employee and founding general manager, and has served as its president since 2013, said, “I’m delighted with our Board’s choice of Robin Sparkman, a trusted leader in our field. I know she and my friend and longtime business partner Steve Engelberg will make a great team in building the next exciting phase of ProPublica.”
Blinkhorn LLC guided ProPublica’s search, with Ann Blinkhorn as lead recruiter.
ProPublica has a staff of more than 160 and a budget of nearly $36 million this year. ProPublica had more than 43,000 donors in 2020, while recording record traffic to its content, and record revenues; traffic this year through May is up 3%. It employs the largest staff in the nation devoted to investigative reporting at both the national and state and local levels, as well as coordinating its pioneering Local Reporting Network.
ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. With a team of more than 135 dedicated journalists, ProPublica covers a range of topics, focusing on stories with the potential to spur real-world impact. Its reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws; reversals of harmful policies and practices; and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels. Since it began publishing in 2008, ProPublica has received six Pulitzer Prizes, seven National Magazine Awards, five Peabody Awards, three Emmy Awards and nine George Polk Awards, among other honors.