Generational divide over digital leadership in public media

Young professionals cite need for stronger management of online platforms

June 14, 2013
Hosted at the USC Conference Center
Washington, D.C.

In the hallways of many public media companies, you can hear complaints that go like this: “Those guys [usually Boomer-age senior managers] just don’t get [something about digital service or social media].”

To prepare for this session, we explored views related to “inter-generational management issues” through a pair of surveys: One reached 45 senior managers while the second collected opinions from 79 young professionals who are members of YPpubmedia, a networking group organized by Greater Public.

Results drawn from our surveys were mildly surprising. Respondents to both surveys self-reported similar usage patterns for online and social media platforms. The groups held similar views about many of the changes roiling through public media companies. Respondents agreed that the focus of their stations’ operations must shift from broadcast to online and mobile delivery at about the same rate; they also held remarkably similar views on strategic investments needed to prepare their stations for the decade ahead.

However, the surveys revealed sharp differences between respondents’ assessments of senior managers’ preparedness to manage digital properties. Senior managers gave themselves reasonably high marks, while their younger colleagues scored them distinctly lower (which explains some of the murmuring in the hallway).

In addition to examining conclusions drawn from the survey, participants in the roundtable discussion debated the extent to which internships, both paid and unpaid, support staff development within public media organizations.

Video archive

Watch the Futures Forum sessions in three parts:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Presentation material

Generational Management Issue Survey PPT

Analysis and follow-up

Public media staff question ability of senior managers to manage digital and social media platforms
By Adam Powell
USC/Annenberg website Blog post |  June 14, 2013
(provides links to all Powerpoint presentations)

Public media leaders debate value of internships, paid and unpaid
By Andrew Lapin | June 18, 2013

Public media wrestles with legality of unpaid internships
By Andrew Lapin
Current | July 22, 2013

Forum participants

In alphabetical order

  • Daniel Ash, Vice President of Strategic Communications, WBEZ Chicago Public Media
  • Ed Beimfohr, Associate Dean, American University School of Communication
  • Georgette Bronfman, Executive Director, Eastern Region Public Media
  • Tyler Brown, Rising Stars Project, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Joseph Bruns, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, WETA-TV/FM
  • Barbara Cochran, Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism, University of Missouri School of Journalism
  • Arthur Cohen, President, Public Radio Program Directors
  • Vincent Curren, Executive Vice President, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Jannette Dates, Dean Emerita, Howard University School of Communications
  • Tom Davidson, Vice President Digital, PBS
  • Mark Fuerst, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Current
  • Polly Heath, Chief Financial Officer, WETA
  • Feather Houston, Advisor, Wyncote Foundation
  • Andrew Lapin, Assistant Editor, Current
  • Roland Legiardi-Laura, Executive Director and Founder, Power Poetry
  • Andrew Leitch, Program Coordinator, Development Exchange
  • Peggy Miles, President and CEO, Intervox Communications
  • Doug Mitchell, Co-Director, The New U
  • Adam C. Powell III, Senior Fellow, USC Center for Communication Leadership and Policy
  • Ellen Rolfes, PBS NewsHour Online
  • Jeffrey Rutenbeck, Dean, American University School of Communication
  • Erica Sanchez, Intern, Current
  • Mary Smith, Media Arts Specialist, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Mark Stencel, Managing Editor for Digital News, NPR
  • Joseph Tovares, Senior Vice Presidentfor Innovation and Diversity, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Graham Vyse, Intern, Current