Williams named CEO of WBGO, Newark’s iconic jazz station

The search committee to find a new head for WBGO-FM 88.3 made a rigorous national search to find its new leader. The Newark-based public radio station, known throughout the country for its commitment to jazz, wanted just the right person.

As it turns out, the search committee didn’t have to look far.

Steven Williams not only has a rich and extensive background in media, but he brings a reputation as a creative, people-centric and data-driven leader. Williams also is a nationally recognized authority on best practices for jazz radio programming, research, marketing and administration, and content production — and someone who has held key leadership roles at top media organizations across a diverse range of markets, including Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, New York City and, most recently, Seattle.

But more than that, Williams is familiar with WBGO, having worked as the director of programming for WBGO in the past and having recently served the station in a consulting capacity.

Williams, it was announced Monday, will take over as CEO and president on Jan. 4, 2021.

“I’m thrilled to lead Newark Public Radio in this new chapter of its storied legacy. I welcome this tremendous opportunity to continue and strengthen WBGO’s commitment to promoting the art form of jazz and ensuring diversity in both its workforce and audience,” he said. “To be given this responsibility is a great honor and I’ll maximize the opportunities before me with thoughtful and informed leadership to build upon the many achievements of this iconic institution.”

A global leader in jazz radio and an iconic institution in Newark, WBGO seeks to educate, entertain and inspire the public by providing access and opportunity to engage with the highest-quality curated jazz and blues programming.

WBGO officials believe that jazz in all its forms represents America’s cultural gift to the world and is committed to connecting the vibrancy of the past, present and future with the music to a global audience, creating a community of jazz lovers.

Williams, in partnership with WBGO’s board of trustees, will set forth a vision for the future that builds on the station’s celebration of jazz and commitment to diversity in a rapidly changing new media environment.

WBGO board Chair Karl Frederic said Williams is the right person at the right time.

“Steve’s experience, knowledge and contacts will invigorate WBGO as we enter our fifth decade of operation,” Frederic said. “The thoughtful and reliable locally produced programming from public media outlets like WBGO is more essential than ever before in a fragmented and polarized media landscape.

“Steve brings enthusiasm and capability to give WBGO an even more robust presence on the airwaves and on new media platforms that have emerged since our founding in 1979 that give us a global reach. At the same time, we remain committed to Newark as our home and the values on which WBGO was founded.”

WBGO reaches a weekly audience of more than 400,000 in the metro area via 88.3 FM. Its streaming and social media activities reach hundreds of thousands more worldwide.

Through programs such as “Jazz Night in America,” produced in partnership with NPR and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and WBGO’s position as a content provider to NPR, its reach extends to millions more across the country and world.

The search committee that selected Williams included current and previous WBGO board members, community partners, and founder and interim CEO and President Bob Ottenhoff.