National Press Club Executive Director Bill McCarren to Retire

The National Press Club today announced that Executive Director Bill McCarren is stepping down after more than 15 years of service. McCarren will continue his duties until a new executive director is in place and will then consult for the Club for a brief period. The Club will soon announce the results of its extensive search for a new executive director.

The National Press Club is both a venue where news happens, and a powerful organizational advocate for the freedom and rights of the journalists who cover news. McCarren has been an effective and successful leader of these two complementary missions.

McCarren joined the Club as a member in 1986. The Club’s board of governors hired him as general manager in July 2007 and appointed him executive director in 2010. He was the first person to hold the executive director title in the organization’s 116-year history.

As executive director, McCarren helped lead the Club’s central mission of press freedom. He helped lead several of the Club’s most high-profile campaigns, including those supporting: Jason Rezaian, Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, Austin TiceJamal Khashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh.

“The press freedom mission of the Club is one of its most enduring and defining aspects. This is who we are. We work to get journalists out of jail and to help their families obtain justice. This work has become a personal passion over the years. I am particularly proud of how this mission was embraced by every person on the Club’s remarkable, talented and dedicated team,” McCarren said.

Washington Post writer Jason Rezaian, who was unjustly imprisoned by Iranian authorities for 544 days before his release in 2016, commended McCarren for his press freedom work:

Bill McCarren knew me long before we ever met. He was a tireless advocate for my freedom, for which I am forever indebted. But I’m even more grateful for his friendship. It is not an exaggeration to say he has been the most supportive person of my wife and me since our release. Without his concern for our well-being and guidance, from our earliest days of new freedom until right now seven years later, I don’t know where we would be. Uncle Bill, as we call him in our house, is the greatest friend a journalist in trouble, or one recently out of trouble, can have.”

The Club’s advocacy work would not have been possible without a strong business operation behind it. During his tenure, McCarren drew from his significant business experience to lead the Club to a remarkable financial turnaround. When he took over in 2007, the Club had no cash reserves, high debt and an unprofitable business model. Under the leadership of McCarren and the board, the Club made a profit every year from 2007 until the pandemic, and currently has low debt with significant reserves.

Donna Leinwand Leger, the 2009 president of the Club, praised Bill’s business-building efforts, which were vital to helping the Club weather a significant pandemic-related business downturn in 2020, 2021 and early 2022. The Club bounced back later in 2022 with record profits:

“The National Press Club is financially healthy because of Bill McCarren’s business acumen. It’s a great place to belong because of Bill’s dedication. It was not uncommon to see Bill at an 8 a.m. Newsmaker and an 8 p.m. book event.”

Michael Freedman, executive producer of The Kalb Report and 2020 Club president, worked with McCarren to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Club’s operations:

“Bill and I partnered our way through the unprecedented first year of the pandemic (2020 and early 2021), which included shuttering the physical Club and becoming a virtual organization, taking care of the staff, providing services to members, and ensuring funding, all in addition to being a voice of strength for journalists through politics, protests, a presidential election, the insurrection and an inauguration.”

“For all BIll has contributed to the Club’s success during his long tenure, this was his finest hour as he worked tirelessly to ensure the National Press Club would survive. It was a moment in time when leadership required multiple accrued skills, a creative spirit, patience, perseverance, and total commitment. Bill was the right person, in the right place, at the right time, and working so closely with him was an honor and a privilege I shall never forget.”

Events during the pandemic, particularly the murder of George Floyd, highlighted a need for increased diversity in journalism. Lisa Matthews, Associated Press U.S planning editor and 2021 Club president, worked with McCarren to carry out the Club’s ongoing missions while identifying ways the Club could create opportunities with graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs):

“The contributions and accomplishments of Bill McCarren are numerous. Bill is and has been the hero of press freedom for the National Press Club. He is a tireless advocate for press freedom. There was never a time during my presidency when Bill wasn’t working furiously behind the scenes to secure the release of a detained journalist or raising the importance of press freedom.”

“Bill is also acutely aware of the need for increased diversity in the news business and at the Club itself. Bill was the driving force behind the free one-year membership for journalism and communications graduates of HBCUs that started during my term.”

The Club’s 2022 president, Defense News reporter Jen Judson, worked with McCarren to lead the Club to its most profitable year:

“Bill made my tenure as president an incredibly fulfilling one because of his dedication to the Club and his deep knowledge of how it works. Bill had to navigate difficult years in the pandemic and kept us on stable footing. Not only did he keep us afloat, but in our first year rising out of the pandemic, his business savvy resulted in the Club’s most profitable year on record in 2022.”

“He has always been outstanding and, without a doubt, he wraps up a career at the Club on a beyond outstanding note. I’ve enjoyed working with him immensely and he will be sorely missed upon his retirement.”

Earlier in his career McCarren was founder and CEO of U.S. Newswire, a wire service startup which was ultimately sold to PR Newswire. He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University and an MA from Brown University.

In addition to consulting for nonprofits and companies, McCarren will continue his service to boards including: Reporters Without Borders, NYC-based tech startup LightBox, and the International Youth Peace Forum. McCarren’s immediate plans for retirement include travel with his wife Andrea McCarren to favorite places and new horizons.