Former Gannett Media president and USA Today publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth will be the first woman to serve as president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, the organization announced Tuesday.
In her new role, Wadsworth, 50, will oversee a $2.6 billion foundation that gives millions of dollars in grants each year to arts, journalism and community organizations. The Knight Foundation has invested more than $632 million in journalism since 2005 and recently made headlines for its $150 million contribution to the Press Forward initiative, which aims to inject half a billion dollars into local news over the next five years.
“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 in a press release. “The opportunity to lead this organization is a tremendous honor and an awesome responsibility.”
Wadsworth previously spent 26 years at Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country. She started as a reporter at the Rockford (Illinois) Register Star before eventually becoming the company’s second-highest-ranking executive, behind CEO Mike Reed. As head of Gannett’s news division, Wadsworth oversaw more than 4,000 journalists across 250 newsrooms.
At the end of 2022, following multiple rounds of layoffs that resulted in at least 600 job eliminations, Wadsworth left Gannett. Seven top-ranking executives and editors at Gannett and USA Today followed in the subsequent months, including the editor-in-chief at USA Today and Gannett’s senior vice president of local news.
Following her departure from Gannett, Wadsworth served on the boards of The Associated Press, Pew Research Center, University of Miami and Skillshare, according to her LinkedIn profile.
When Wadsworth starts her new role at the Knight Foundation in January, she will succeed Alberto Ibargüen, who has led the organization for 18 years. Ibargüen previously worked as the publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, and while at the foundation, he oversaw the disbursement of $2.3 billion.