DEI group unites public media’s young professionals

By Andrew Lapin

A group of young public media professionals who began meeting informally last year to network and share ideas has moved to step up its profile.

YPpubmedia recently announced the creation of a seven-member advisory group that will meet monthly under the auspices of Development Exchange Inc., where both of its co-creators work. It’s also participating in key events, including the June 14 Public Media Futures Forum exploring media leadership and next month’s Public Media Development and Marketing Conference in Atlanta.

Fuchs

Fuchs

The group charges no membership fees and counts nearly 275 members across nearly 150 public stations and organizations less than a year after organizing its first event.

DEI’s Brooke Fuchs and Andrew Leitch were relatively new to public media when they first thought of the idea to create a young professionals’ group in May 2012. The two had worked at DEI for less than a year — Fuchs as a marketing communications coordinator and Leitch as a program coordinator — and had just become full-time employees.  Each had attended events organized by Minneapolis young professionals’ groups and wanted to bring that experience of camaraderie to public media.

“There’s a sense for a lot of folks out there that it’s hard to be the only young professional, especially at a small station,” Leitch said.

Fuchs explained: “It’s more intimidating coming in as a new person and not really knowing your place yet, or knowing where you can voice your opinions.” The two, both  in their mid-20s, are DEI’s youngest employees by a significant margin: Colleagues who are closest in age to them are in their late 30s.

To test the waters among other young professionals in public media, the two organized a meet-and-greet event for employees under the age of 35 during the 2012 PMDMC in Seattle. Attendance was strong: More than 50 attendees broke away from the standard conference sessions to share their experiences working alongside (and, in some cases, overseeing) older managers. Later, they mingled at a happy hour in a nearby bar.

With a demonstrated level of interest, Fuchs and Leitch pitched their bosses on a proposal to continue developing the group as a long-term project. They got a green light and oversight responsibility to take it further.

“Instinctively, when we pitched it to them, they felt the need [for the group] and they understood it,” Fuchs said. “It was surprising to us that there wasn’t anything already in place similar to this.”

In its first year of existence, YPpubmedia’s membership skewed heavily toward radio employees, largely because the group drew from DEI’s database to recruit members. Half of registered members work at public radio stations, 12 percent in pubTV and 27 percent from joint licensees. Membership also includes public media employees who work outside of stations, such as Fuchs and Leitch.

“These are really professionals first,” Leitch said. “These are real, great ideas that are grounded in strategy coming out of their stations, so it’s all about showing that to a wider audience.”

Leitch

Leitch

To recruit seven members of the YPpubmedia advisory board, Fuchs and Leitch put out an open call seeking candidates who represent various leadership positions at different types of stations across the country. Advisory board members announced May 22 include:

  • Two from community radio — Chris Bay, an interactive web producer at St. Louis’s KDHX; and Liz Mozzocco, music director at Akron’s The Summit.
  • Three from membership departments — Chelan Lippincott, membership director at Seattle’s KBCS; Wynde Priddy, part of Colorado Public Radio’s membership team; and Claire Radomski, membership manager at Indianapolis’s WFYI.
  • One senior marketing executive — Chicago Public Media Director of Marketing Vanessa Harris.
  • One digital producer — Andi McDaniel, architect of Twin Cities Public Television’s new Open Air initiative geared toward young viewers.

In addition to meeting once per month, the board plans to convene smaller group meetings to address items such as social media strategy for YPpubmedia.

Fuchs and Leitch intend to make more waves this summer. YPpubmedia members participated in a survey on the future of media leadership in advance of the June 7  Public Media Futures forum in Washington, D.C.  Leitch is among the participants expected to speak alongside prominent public media executives such as Jason Seiken, g.m. of PBS Digital, and Mark Stencel, NPR’s managing editor for digital news.

Additionally, YPpubmedia will host the session “How to be Heard,” discussing ways to communicate ideas effectively to senior management, during the 2013 PMDMC, to be held July 11-13 in Atlanta. Afterwards, the group will reconvene – naturally – for happy hour.

Ultimately, Leitch hopes creating a supportive environment for young professionals will help to “return some knowledge to the system” so that “the rest of the industry can benefit” from its youth.

Questions, comments, tips? lapin@current.org
Editor’s Note: Current is an independent journalism center within American University’s School of Communication and participates in the Public Media Futures Forums as an editorial partner.
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