Wadsworth brings nearly three decades of experience, along with a steadfast belief in journalistic excellence as a pillar of a vibrant democracy. | Gesi Schilling for Knight Foundation.
Former President of Gannett Media and Publisher of USA Today, Wadsworth brings nearly three decades of experience
Wadsworth to succeed Alberto Ibargüen, who announced his retirement in March 2023 after 18 years leading the foundation
MIAMI – Today, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the appointment of Maribel Perez Wadsworth as president and CEO. As the former president of Gannett Media and publisher of USA Today, Wadsworth brings nearly three decades of experience to this role, along with a steadfast belief in journalistic excellence as a pillar of a vibrant democracy. A Miami native, she makes history as Knight’s seventh president and the first woman to lead the foundation. Selected following a comprehensive, nation-wide search, her tenure is set to begin in January 2024.
Wadsworth succeeds Alberto Ibargüen, who on March 24, 2023 publicly announced his decision to retire from Knight Foundation. Ibargüen, the former publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, led the multibillion-dollar foundation for nearly two decades and oversaw the disbursement of $2.3 billion.
“Maribel’s passion for journalism, coupled with her staunch belief that arts and culture play a pivotal role in nurturing well-informed and actively engaged communities, aligns directly with our core values. We are thrilled to welcome her as the new president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,” said Frank Borges, chair of the board of trustees. “We firmly believe that her wealth of experience and unwavering commitment to these values will steer us in fulfilling our mission.”
“The opportunity to lead this organization is a tremendous honor and an awesome responsibility,” Wadsworth said. | Gesi Schilling for Knight Foundation.
Knight, the nation’s leading philanthropic supporter of journalism, has invested over $632 million since 2005 in America’s media ecosystem and recently committed $150 million to the Press Forward campaign, which aims to raise one billion dollars for the growth and sustainability of local news organizations. In addition, the foundation invests in the 28 communities that once hosted Knight newspapers and has been a catalyst in accelerating the burgeoning field of research on the impact of technology on society. Knight is also among the top funders of the arts nationwide. With a $2.6 billion endowment, Knight’s grantmaking averages $135 million per year.
“Knight Foundation is a leader at the nexus of the things I care about so deeply — journalistic excellence and defense of the First Amendment, fostering engaged citizenry, and building thriving, inclusive communities — all in service of sustaining a strong democracy,” Wadsworth said. “The opportunity to lead this organization is a tremendous honor and an awesome responsibility.”
Wadsworth’s professional journey began in 1994, where she spent two years as editorial assistant with the Associated Press before taking on her first job as a reporter with the Rockford Register Star in 1996. After more than a decade as a reporter and editor in local markets, Wadsworth transitioned to a role with Gannett’s corporate team in 2009, where she focused on digital and audience transformation. Wadsworth spearheaded Gannett’s transition into the digital age, leading the company’s launch of digital subscription offerings.
In 2017 she was named the president of the USA Today Network, and in 2018 was appointed publisher of USA Today, becoming the second woman and first person of color to serve in the role. At Gannett, Wadsworth’s oversight extended to more than 4,000 journalists across 250 local news organizations, along with the flagship USA Today. During her tenure as publisher, the USA Today Network earned five Pulitzer Prizes.
As a leader, she has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion. She has advocated for workplaces that not only hire diverse talent but also build truly inclusive environments that allow for the full expression of diverse voices, which she believes is essential for communities to thrive and for journalism to be credible and effective. For that work, she received the News Leaders Association’s Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership in 2019.
A Miami native, she makes history as Knight’s seventh president and the first woman to lead the foundation. | Gesi Schilling for Knight Foundation.
Wadsworth has helped to lead the industry through challenges, from the surge of misinformation to the erosion of trust in reliable news sources. She serves on the governing board of Pew Research Center, a leader in using research to understand American trends and attitudes around trust and news. She also serves on the board of the fact-based, nonpartisan Associated Press, whose mission is to provide trusted news worldwide.
“Knight’s mission goes beyond headlines and into the heart of how communities work,” said Wadsworth. “With arts and culture at the core of connecting people to place, the foundation supports improving public spaces, revitalizing neighborhoods, advancing economic opportunity and the smart use of technology. I am eager to work alongside the top-notch team and dedicated partners on these important efforts.”
Outgoing Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibargüen added: “Jack and Jim Knight were newsmen who left a fortune to better the American communities they served. They believed that a well-informed community could best ‘determine its own true interests’ and they entrusted future generations of trustees to do just that. I look forward to Maribel’s leadership, evolving the meaning and execution of that mission in the years to come.”
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