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Medford-based PBS station looking for new leader

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneJan Abramsson, producer director, left, Keegan Van Hook, producer, Jeff LeBeau, Production manager and Brad Fay, CEO, edit a program in Medford on Wednesday.
A Colorado search firm and a local committee of individuals have been tasked with finding a successor to former president/CEO Mark Stanislawski, who had filled that role since 2001.

For the first time in two decades, the search for a new president/CEO of Medford-based Southern Oregon PBS is underway.

To facilitate the search, the SOPBS Board of Directors tapped Livingston Associates of Littleton, Colorado, a search firm specializing in hiring media executives, to work with a committee of community members in helping the board find the ideal candidate for the position. Applications, which have been available for two months, are due Jan. 9.

“We hope the new leader will bring about an era of more community partnerships, increased local production and stronger ties with the educational community,” Brad Fay, interim president, CEO and director of content, said this week.

The new president/CEO will succeed Mark Stanislawski, who had filled that role since 2001. Stanislawski’s accomplishments include bringing SOPBS into high definition television and landing several national productions, including the documentary “Sight: The Story of Vision” and “400 Years of the Telescope” to broadcast on SOPBS.

His LinkedIn page also says that from FY2002 and more recently, operating revenues increased over 17%, and SOPBS’s assets went up 130%.

“He was a strong leader,” Fay said. “We had a top of the line, experienced president, and we were fortunate to have him for 20 years.”

Now that the attention is on a national search, the interim president stressed that the next leader of SOPBS might not be a man.

“That’s a good thing,” Fay said. “The public broadcasting system is embracing diversity, equity and inclusion in a big, big way, and we hope the new leader can bring something to those tables.”

Livingston was tasked with doing the active recruitment and collection of prospective candidates, while the committee’s job is to review resumes and make recommendations of finalists to the board so it can decide on a final candidate.

“Livingston Associates has been doing this a long time and will provide an excellent pool of candidates,” he said.

The number of candidates should number about a half-dozen, according to Fay. He hoped that by the spring, SOPBS would be able to announce a new president/CEO.

“We want to do our due diligence and have some time to think it over,” Fay said.

He then talked about the importance of injecting new leadership into SOPBS, which has been navigating the pandemic for the past two years with a staff mostly working remotely.

“It’s extremely important to get somebody in place soon because of the many facets of the job, including interfacing with the community, balancing a budget in uncertain economic times and dealing with the fast-changing landscape of the television industry,” Fay said.

One of those major changes, he noted, is the move from broadcast to on-demand viewing. Fay touted the “Passport” program, which allows viewers to watch PBS programming whenever they want.

The rise of on-demand television, plus “the shorter attention span of the younger viewer,” are issues the new SOPBS president/CEO must grapple with, according to Fay.

Jeff LaBeau, producer and production manager for the local PBS station, talked about what he’s looking for in a new leader, but not before praising Fay’s leadership.

“With Mark’s retirement, there was a lot of insecurity. It was like, ‘what’s going to happen?,’ and Brad has been a real stabilizing force that we’ve been able to say, ‘we have a direction to work toward,’” LaBeau said. “In a way, Brad’s helped build from the bottom up instead of, ‘OK, follow me.’ I just hope whoever comes on board continues what Brad has started.”

Fay said the station is “out of line” with some “best practices,” and he hopes to do some realignment before a new president/CEO takes the helm of SOPBS. Prioritizing things like that is the right thing to do in a time of transition, the interim CEO said.

“Anytime there’s any kind of movement — and it’s not that they (the previous leaders) were doing anything wrong, necessarily — it’s a good opportunity to restructure things when we know someone else is coming in,” Fay said.

Southern Oregon PBS access

You can watch SOPBS live on its website, www.sopbs.org; by downloading the PBS app; or through Spectrum TV via channel 8 (Southern Oregon PBS); 193 (PBS WORLD); 192 (PBS CREATE); 185 (PBS KIDS); DISH/DIRECT TV satellite offers SOPBS only on channel 8.

You can listen to SOPBS on the airwaves,too, at 8.1 (Southern Oregon PBS); 8.2 (PBS WORLD); 8.3 (PBS CREATE); 8.4 (PBS KIDS).

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.